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, eroding confidence between the two sides at a crucial turning point in the war and when NATO troops and Afghan counterparts are in more intimate contact.
U.S. troop deaths, overall NATO fatalities and Afghan civilian deaths all dropped as insurgent attacks fell off in their traditional strongholds in the country’s south and east. However, insurgent activity was up 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 in 2011 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 nonhostile 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.
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 because the investigation is ongoing.
The focus of NATO’s mission has largely veered from the battlefield to training the Afghans ahead of a pullout of most troops by 2014.
A NATO report that tracks violence in the country showed a rise last year compared with the period before the surge of U.S. troops into the country. But the levels were down from 2011 and a peak in the summer of 2010. Kabul and the country’s second-largest city, Kandahar, saw a considerable drop in lethal attacks, but districts in Kandahar Province remain among the most restive in Afghanistan.
Militant attacks, the report said, decreased countrywide by 7 percent through November compared with the same 11-month period in 2011. But they were up in the northern and western parts of the country, which previously had been among the most peaceful regions.
More Afghan police and soldiers are dying in the conflict, according to numbers provided by the Interior and Defense ministries. More than 1,050 Afghan troops died last year, substantially higher than in 2011, although the ministry could not provide the exact death toll for 2011.
Nearly 1,400 police died in the 10 months from March 21 to the end of 2012, compared with about the same number for the 12 months beginning March 21, 2011. The Afghan government follows a calendar year starting March 21.
The AP tally showed that at least 822 Afghan civilians were killed by the Taliban and other militants last year while another 119 died in NATO airstrikes and other operations. That was a decrease from 2011, when 1,151 were killed by insurgents and 283 by NATO.