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GI slain in Afghanistan makes '08 deadliest yet

/ Source: The Associated Press

An insurgent attack on an eastern compound killed a U.S. soldier on Thursday, bringing the year's death toll to 112 and making 2008 the deadliest for American forces in Afghanistan since the U.S. invaded the country in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

The NATO-led force said the soldier was killed in eastern Afghanistan "when insurgents attacked a compound." It provided no other details, but a Western military official told The Associated Press that the soldier was American.

Afghanistan was the launching pad for al-Qaida's terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. In response, U.S. forces invaded in October 2001 and drove the Taliban out of power in a matter of weeks.

Once derided as a ragtag insurgency after the fall of their regime, Taliban fighters have transformed into a fighting force advanced enough to mount massive conventional attacks. Suicide and roadside bombs have turned bigger and deadlier than ever.

The number of Arab, Chechen and Uzbek militants flowing into the Afghan-Pakistan theater has increased this year, bringing with them command expertise the Taliban had lacked in previous years.

Pakistan blamed
Top U.S. generals, European presidents and analysts say the blame lies to the east, in militant sanctuaries in neighboring Pakistan. As long as those areas remain havens where fighters arm, train, recruit and plot increasingly sophisticated ambushes, the Afghan war will continue to sour.

Thursday's death brings to 112 the number of troops who have died in Afghanistan this year, surpassing last year's record toll of 111.

Some 33,000 U.S. troops are now stationed in the country, the highest level since 2001. Overall, more than 65,000 troops from 40 nations are deployed in Afghanistan.

U.S. troops in Afghanistan on Thursday remembered those killed in the Sept. 11 attacks during ceremonies at bases around the country. In Kabul, a top U.S. general said terrorism still remains a threat to the world.

Maj. Gen. Robert Cone told those gathered for a memorial ceremony at Camp Eggers that terrorists have struck in London, Russia and Bali, Indonesia since the 2001 attacks in the United States.

"These attacks are reminders that the threat of terrorism is real and still a danger to the entire world," Cone said.

Cone's command in Kabul trains and equips the fledgling Afghan security forces — the centerpiece of the American strategy of turning Afghanistan into a country that can defend itself and away from the days when Osama bin Laden used it as a safe haven to launch attacks in New York and Washington.