U.S. Marine pallbearers carry a casket containing the body of Cpl. Christopher Monahan Jr. in Bayville, N.J., on Dec. 6. Monahan died Nov. 26 in Helmand province in Afghanistan
(Photo: Julio Cortez, AP)
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan (USA TODAY) - The number of U.S. deaths in Afghanistan is on track to decline sharply this year, reflecting the drawdown in U.S. forces and an expanded Afghan army that is playing a larger role in fighting the Taliban.
This year, 301 Americans have died in Afghanistan, down from a peak of 500 American deaths in 2010, according to a USA TODAY database. It is the second consecutive yearly decline.
"A year ago we were taking larger amounts of casualties than they were," said Marine Maj. Gen. Charles "Mark" Gurganus, referring to Afghan security forces in the former Taliban stronghold of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. "It is absolutely 180 (degrees) out now," he said.
"They're being targeted a lot more intensely," said Gurganus, commander of Regional Command Southwest.
The Afghan Defense Ministry estimates that the Afghan military and police have are seeing more than 300 deaths per month. About 80% of the operations are now led and planned by Afghan forces, up from 50% in the summer, according to the coalition command.
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