Army Private Last KIA of 2012

A 20-year-old private first class from north Florida on his first deployment was identified Monday as possibly the last U.S. servicemember to be killed in 2012 in the 11-year-old war in Afghanistan.

Army Pfc. Markie T. Sims, 20, of Citra, Fla., was killed in a blast from an improvised explosed device (IED), or roadside bomb, on Dec. 29 in Panjwal in southwestern Kandahar province, the Defense Department said in a statement. He served with the 38th Engineer Company, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, under control of the 7th Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

His death brought the total of coalition troops killed in 2012 to 405 (309 U.S.), down from 566 (418 U.S.) in 2011 and 711 (499 U.S.) in 2010 -- the worst year of the war for allied fatalities, according to the website icasualties.org. At least 3,252 allied troops (2173 U.S.) have been killed since the war began in 2001 and more than 18,150 U.S. troops have been wounded.

The number of deaths from IEDs, the biggest single killer of coalition troops, has also gone down from 368 in 2010, to 252 in 2011 and 135 in 2012.

Deaths from insider attacks — Afghan soldiers and police killing NATO troops – rose significantly in 2012 to at least 62 from 45 separate attacks, compared to the 35 coalition troops killed in 21 so-called “green on blue” attacks in 2011.

As coalition casualties have decreased, the number of Afghan soldiers killed has gone up substantially, according to Afghan Defense Ministry officials cited by the New York Times. More than 1,000 Afghan troops were killed in 2012, about a 20% increase over 2011.

Afghan police were also dying at an increased rate. About 1,400 Afghan police were killed n the 10 months from March 21 to the end of the year, compared with about the same number for the 12 months beginning March 21, 2011, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. has yet to decide on the pace of withdrawals to meet President Obama’s order to have all of the 66,000 combat troops now in Afghanistan back home by the end of 2014, but Afghan National Security Forces were assuming more responsibility from the coalition.

In Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced Monday that Afghan forces in the coming months would complete the fourth stage of the process to assume control in all of the nation’s 34 provinces. The transition to Afghan control would put Afghans in the lead in about 87% of the nation’s territory.

Karzai’s announcement “is another historic step for Afghanistan as it gets closer to taking full responsibility for security of the entire country," said Marine Gen. John Allen, the allied commander.

In a statement, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that “This step demonstrates the success of our strategy and the progress that the men and women of ISAF, working closely with our Afghan partners, are achieving every day in Afghanistan.”

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