So far this year, 301 American troops have died in Afghanistan, down from 2010's peak of 500 and last year's 413, USA Today reports. The sharp decrease reflects the declining number of US troops in the country and the increasing number of Afghan troops now fighting the Taliban. "A year ago we were taking larger amounts of casualties than [Afghan security forces] were," says a Marine major. "It is absolutely 180 [degrees] out now."
More than 300 Afghan military and police are killed each month, as Afghan troops increasingly plan and lead operations against the Taliban. The Afghan security force, about 350,000-strong, leads 80% of those operations now, compared to 50% during the summer. Meanwhile, the US force is just 68,000-strong compared to a peak of almost 100,000. Afghan troops "are really taking the fight now and we are stepping back," says a top coalition spokesperson.