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The U.S. had 34,000 troops in Afghanistan during the summer of 2008, the highest level since 2005, but that was not enough to stem growing violence in the country or the resurgence of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Indeed, June 2008 was the deadliest month for U.S. and coalition troops since the American-led invasion began in 2001.

Forty-six soldiers were killed; there were 31 U.S troop deaths in Iraq during the same period. In addition, a Pentagon report indicated that the U.S. is facing two separate insurgencies in Afghanistan: the Taliban in the south and a collection of militant bands in the east, which borders Pakistan.

These adversaries seek the expulsion of "all foreign military forces from Afghanistan, the elimination of external government influence in their respective areas, and the imposition of a religiously conservative, Pashtun-led government." Some U.S. officials began to question the effectiveness of President Karzai and his ability to rein in the mounting insurgency.

Those doubts were further justified in June, when the Taliban brazenly orchestrated a jailbreak in Kandahar, which freed about 900 prisoners, 350 of them were Taliban.

In August, as many as 90 Afghan civilians, 60 of them children, were killed in a U.S.-launched airstrike in the western village of Azizabad. It was one of the deadliest airstrikes since the war began in 2001, and the deadliest on civilians.

The U.S. military refuted the figures, however, which were confirmed by the UN, claiming that the airstrike, in response to an attack by militants, killed less than 10 civilians and about 30 members of the Taliban. An investigation by the U.S. military, released in October, found that more than 30 civilians and less than 20 militants were killed in the raid.

The Pakistani military launched a three-week-long cross-border air assault into Afghanistan's Bajaur region throughout August, which resulted in more than 400 Taliban casualties. The continuous airstrikes forced many al-Qaeda and Taliban militants to retreat from towns formally under their control.

However, the Pakistani government declared a cease-fire in the Bajaur region for the month of September in observance of Ramadan, raising fears that the Taliban will use the opportunity to regroup.

Allied deaths in Afghanistan reached 267 in 2008, the highest number since the war began in 2003. U.S. president-elect Barack Obama said defeating the Taliban would be a top priority of his administration. The Pentagon, seeming to share Obama's sense of urgency, said it would comply with a request by Gen.

David McKiernan, the top commander in Afghanistan, and send an additional 20,000 troops to Afghanistan in 2009. In May 2009, Gen. David McKiernan was replaced by Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, a veteran Special Operations commander.

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