Violence Fell in 2012; Afghan Troop Casualties Up
 
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Violence in Afghanistan fell in 2012, but more Afghan security forces, who were now shoulder most of the combat operations in the country, were killed this year than any other year in the last decade.

More than 1,000 Afghan army soldiers were killed in the past a year in Taliban-led attacks, bombings and military operations, a spokesman of the ministry of Defense Ministry, General Zahir Azimi, told reporters on Sunday.

"Up to 1,050 Afghan National Army personnel, including officers and soldiers, have been martyred in the fight against insurgents and security incidents all over the country in 2012," he said.

About 85 percent of army casualties were caused by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), Azimi said.

That Afghan army will be prepared to provide security in Afghanistan by the end of 2013, but the lack of a functional air force is a serious challenge, he added.

Although the ministry is optimistic the air force issue will be resolved by 2014, the spokesman said a lack of heavy arms and shortage of human intelligence capabilities are other serious issues.

But Nato said that the security situation overall is better this year, praising Afghan special forces for "surgically removing insurgent leaders from the battle space."

"The overall situation is improving," said a Nato spokesman, US Air Force Lt. Col. Lester T. Carroll to Associated Press.

A recent Pentagon report concluded that though violence was lower this year than in its peak in 2010, it was still higher than before the surge of US troops ordered by President Obama.

While Nato fatalities from insider attacks increased, overall Nato deaths, US troop casualties and Afghan civilian deaths all dropped.

US troop deaths declined overall from 404 last year to 295 as of Saturday. A total of 394 foreign troops, including the Americans, were killed in 2012, down from 543 in 2011.

Insurgent violence dropped in the traditionally insecure south and east, but rose in the north and west.

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