KABUL, Afghanistan – Violence in Afghanistan fell in 2012, but more Afghan troops and police who now shoulder most of the combat were killed, according to statistics compiled by the Associated Press.
At the same time, insider killings by uniformed Afghans against their foreign allies rose dramatically.
“The overall situation is improving,” said a NATO spokesman, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Lester T. Carroll. He singled out Afghan special forces as “surgically removing insurgent leaders from the battle space.”
Afghan Ministry of Defense spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said Afghan forces were now charged with 80 percent of security missions and were less equipped to face the most lethal weapon of the militants – roadside bombs.
“Our forces are out there in the battlefields and combat areas more than at any other time in the past,” he said, citing reasons for the spike in casualties.
U.S. troop deaths, overall NATO fatalities and Afghan civilian deaths all dropped as insurgent attacks fell off in their traditional strongholds in the south and east. However, insurgent activity rose in the north and west, where the Taliban and other groups have been less active in the past, and overall levels of violence were higher than before a U.S. troop surge more than two years ago.
U.S. troop deaths declined overall from 404 last year to 295 as of Saturday. The Defense Department says 1,701 U.S. troops have been killed in action in Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion in 2001 until Dec. 26. Of those, 338 died from non-hostile causes. Some 18,154 were wounded.
A total of 394 foreign troops, including the Americans, were killed in 2012, down from 543 in 2011. The British, with the second-largest military presence, had 43 killed – the second-highest toll among countries with forces in Afghanistan, by AP’s count. The figure includes a Georgian soldier who went missing on Dec. 18 and whose body was turned over to NATO on Saturday.
Deaths from so-called insider attacks – Afghan police and troops killing foreign allies – surged to 61 in 45 attacks last year compared with 2011, when 35 coalition troops were killed in 21 attacks.
The number, provided by the NATO command, does not include the Dec. 24 killing of an American civilian adviser by a female member of the Afghan police.
NATO says Afghan security forces have grown from 132,000 in March 2011 to 333,000 this month.