Eight years on, 9/11 reaps heavy toll
Washington — Eight years after Al-Qaeda brought carnage to the United States killing nearly 3,000 people, the "war on terror" unleashed after the attacks has claimed tens of thousands of lives far from US shores.
Countless civilians and security forces of many nationalities have died since September 11, 2001 and continue to bear the burden of a conflict that has spread beyond the initial focal points of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Up to 101,539 civilians have been killed in Iraq since former president George W. Bush ordered the 2003 US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, according to figures compiled by the Iraq Body Count, an independent monitor.
The Bush administration wrongly accused Saddam of being in cahoots with Al-Qaeda and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.
The ensuing chaos as US-led troops moved in stoked the fires of sectarian violence, and fueled the rise of a new group, Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Despite moves by Bush, and his successor, President Barack Obama, to shore up the new Iraqi leadership, a spate of attacks in August saw violent deaths hit a 13-month high at 456, including 393 civilians, official figures showed.
According to another monitoring group, icasualties.org, a total of 4,343 US troops have died in Iraq since 2003, along with 179 British soldiers and 139 of other nationalities.
Obama has now shifted the focus of the war from Iraq to Afghanistan, and has pledged to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq by 2010, with a complete military withdrawal by 2011.
But the weeks leading up to the June 30 withdrawal of American forces from Iraq’s cities, towns and villages also saw a spike in violence, claiming 437 lives that month.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has warned of more deadly attacks because security is deteriorating due to collusion between the security forces and insurgents.
"Enough of these over-optimistic remarks about security. There has been a deterioration in the security situation, this is a fact and the coming (violence) will be bigger," he said earlier this month.
In Afghanistan, where US troops ousted Taliban Islamic leaders in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the resurgent militants are now inflicting heavy casualties on US and NATO-led troops.
There is no proper tally of civilian deaths in Afghanistan, but United Nations figures showed some 2,118 civilians were killed last year — the highest since the Taliban were ousted in November 2001. Another 1,523 were killed in 2007.
A total of 1,378 US and NATO troops have died in Afghanistan, the bulk of them American forces, according to icasualties.org. Britain has the second-largest number of troops killed, with 213.
And the conflict has also inflicted its heaviest toll on Canadian forces in more than five decades with the loss of 129 troops.
August was the deadliest month for foreign troops in Afghanistan, with 77 servicemembers — 51 of them US troops — killed.
At least 333 international military forces have been killed so far this year, making it the most lethal since the start of the war.
The escalating violence has also colored US public opinion, with a majority of Americans now opposed to the war, according to recent polls. An ICM Research survey released Thursday found the same is true among Britons.