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Posted May 27, 2012, 4:05 pm
As America commemorates Memorial Day, more than 2.2 million US service members have seen active duty in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade. According to the Associated Press, more than 6,330 have died in the wars since 2001, approximately 4,500 in Iraq and more than 1,840 in Afghanistan.
These five provinces saw the highest casualties during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the numbers indicating the death toll in each province:
1,332 - Anbar, Iraq
During the height of the Iraq war, Anbar province was one of the deadliest places in the country for American troops, with Marines or soldiers dying nearly every day in the Sunni insurgency, according to The New York Times. Islamic extremists controlled large portions of the province, and the provincial capital Ramadi and Fallujah saw some of the fiercest fighting of the war.
By 2006, the conditions were so bad that a Marine Corps intelligence officer said there was no way to end the insurgent violence, according to MSNBC. In the fall of 2008, the United States formally turned over responsibility for keeping order to the Iraqi army and police, and the Awakening movement, Sunni Arab paramilitaries, fought against the Sunni insurgency. In 2009, the Awakening won the elections in Anbar province and faced the huge task of rebuilding the infrastructure of the province, reported The Los Angeles Times.
1,397 - Baghdad, Iraq
The greatest scourge in Baghdad during the Iraq war was IEDs or improvised explosive devices, which claimed the lives of many soldiers. U.S. troops were caught in the crossfire of sectarian violence in 2006 , with the commander of the Multinational Division Baghdad saying attacks on U.S.-led coalition forces in Baghdad had reached an average of 42 a day, according to The Washington Post.
In 2008, roadside bombs and suicide bombs were claiming several Iraqi and American troops' lives, and CNN reported that female suicide bombers became increasingly common.
By 2009, an agreement between Baghdad and Washington led to American forces transitioning from leaving their bases and patrolling to focusing on training and mentoring Iraqi troops, the Guardian said. The violence in Baghdad continued even as U.S. troops were preparing to leave in December 2011, with two bombings and an assassination taking place during a fortnight.
437 - Salah al-Din, Iraq
Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's hometown, Tikrit, was located in the Salah al-Din province, and after the American invasion Saddam was on the run in the province. Tikrit was also a stronghold of Sunni insurgents who targeted Iraqi security forces and American troops. BBC correspondents said the region retained residual sympathy for Saddam's overthrown Baathist regime, even up until the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
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418 - Helmand, Afghanistan
Helmand province is considered a Taliban stronghold, and NATO forces focused their fighting on militants and insurgents in this southern province of Afghanistan. The troop surge put into effect under the Obama administration aimed to take control of population centers in Afghanistan with 30,000 additional troops, driving insurgents into the countryside, according to McClatchy. The city of Marjah was estimated to be home to at least 2,000 militants, as well as serving as a hub for Afghanistan's narcotics trade.
In July 2011, the capital of Helmand province, Lashkar Gah, became the third area to be handed over by NATO troops to Afghan national security forces, according to CNN. U.S.-led forces, during their tenure in Helmand, eliminated many members of the Taliban's senior and mid-level leadership, and U.S. troops are scheduled to withdraw completely from the country by 2014.
304 - Kandahar, Afghanistan
Kandahar is the heartland of Afghanistan's largest ethnicity, the Pashtuns, the birthplace of President Hamid Karzai and the spiritual home of the Taliban, according to BBC. The province has seen some of the heaviest fighting between NATO and the Taliban, with its rocky terrain, deserts and orchards offering cover for the insurgency from which to launch suicide attacks, roadside bombs and ambushes.
While NATO troops are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, they have increasingly experienced "green on blue shootings," of Afghan security forces turning their guns on NATO troops after controversial incidents such as the Quran burnings, night raids and Staff Sgt. Robert Bales' civilian shooting spree in Kandahar villages. According to Reuters, at least 18 foreign soldiers had died in 11 such incidents as of April 28.