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American military deaths reach 1,000 in Afghan war

KABUL, Afghanistan - The American military death toll in Afghanistan reached 1,000 at a time when President Barack Obama's strategy to turn back the Taliban is facing its greatest test - an ambitious campaign to win over a disgruntled population in the insurgents' southern heartland.

More casualties are expected when the campaign kicks into high gear this summer. The results may determine the outcome of a nearly 9-year conflict that became "Obama's war" after he decided to shift the fight against Islamist militancy from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Afghan insurgents find sanctuary.

The milestone was reached in a roadside bombing just before Memorial Day weekend.

The NATO statement did not identify the victim or give the nationality of the service member killed Friday in southern Afghanistan. U.S. spokesman Col. Wayne Shanks said the trooper was American - the 32nd U.S. war death this month, by an Associated Press count.

Already the new focus on the once-forgotten Afghan war has come at a heavy price. More than 430 of the U.S. dead were killed after Obama took office in January 2009. The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan has now surpassed the total in Iraq - roughly 94,000 in Afghanistan compared with 92,000 in Iraq, where the war is winding down.

For many of the U.S. service members in Afghanistan, the 1,000 mark passed without note.

Capt. Nick Ziemba of Wilbraham, Mass., serving with the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment in southern Afghanistan, said 1,000 was an arbitrary number and would have no impact on troop morale or operations.

"We're going to continue to work," he said.

The AP bases its tally on Defense Department reports of deaths as a direct result of the Afghan conflict, including personnel assigned to units in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Uzbekistan.

At least 675 troops from allied countries have died in the war, according to an AP tally based on announcements of foreign governments. They include 288 British service members.

Establishing the number of Afghan dead is far more difficult, particularly for the first several years of the war. The Brookings Institution, using a variety of sources, says at least 6,829 Afghan civilians were killed from 2006 to 2009, and that armed opposition groups like the Taliban were responsible for about 60 percent of those deaths.

The 1,000th U.S. death comes midway between the president's decision last December to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan and a gut check on the war's progress that he has promised by the end of the year.

After a long and wrenching conflict in Iraq - which has claimed nearly 4,400 U.S. military lives - Obama has promised not to be backed into an open-ended war in Afghanistan. He has insisted that some troops will come home beginning July 2011.

A majority of Americans - 52 percent - say the war is not worth the cost. The negative assessment in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll followed a brief rise in support for the war after Obama refocused the U.S. war plan last year.

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