Coalition troop deaths in Afghanistan continued to add up in what has been a hot and bloody struggle, with eight American and four British troops slain over the last 48 hours.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force confirmed the eight American deaths. Five died Wednesday in southern Afghanistan, one in a bombing and the others in a small-arms attack. Three were killed Tuesday as they repelled an insurgent attack on a police base in Kandahar city.
The British Defence Ministry reported four deaths in Helmand province - that of a Marine shot during a foot patrol in the Sangin district of Helmand province and those of three soldiers who were killed in a premeditated attack by a member of the Afghan National Army.
The death toll is on pace to match the killings recorded in June, the bloodiest month so far for U.S. and international troops during the Afghan war.
Sixty Americans were among the 102 international troops slain in June. So far this month, 45 coalition troops have been killed, including 34 Americans.
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The wave of fatalities occurred amid a turbulent political atmosphere in the West.
The war is unpopular among many people in coalition countries and the Obama administration made a major change in the war's leadership - recently replacing Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top international commander in Afghanistan, with Gen. David Petraeus, who was the architect of the U.S. "surge" strategy in Iraq.
The coalition is fighting a tenacious Taliban insurgency, and Petraeus, in his July 4 letter to troops, framed the conflict as a "contest of wills" as he exhorted them to win the fight against militants. He made reference to the military deaths in the note.
"This has been a hard fight," Petraeus said. "As you have soldiered together with our Afghan partners to reverse the Taliban momentum and to take away Taliban safe havens, the enemy has fought back. ISAF and Afghan Forces sustained particularly tough losses last month."