First NATO death in a month in Afghanistan

A NATO soldier was killed by an improvised bomb blast on Friday, the military said, the first coalition death in a month as international forces wind-down their operations.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement that the soldier died in an improvised explosive device attack in southern Afghanistan.

In line with policy, ISAF did not disclose the soldier's nationality or provide any further details.

The last ISAF death was on January 23 -- the eighth soldier to die that month, according to

More than 3,250 NATO troops, mostly Americans, have died in Afghanistan since a US-led invasion toppled the former Taliban regime in 2001.

There has been no calendar month with zero casualties since July 2002, according to the records kept by icasualties.

Casualties in Afghanistan's war regularly drop on both sides during the winter months, when snow and bitter conditions make fighting more difficult, and pick up again with the start of the "fighting season" in spring.

But the coalition death toll fell to its lowest in four years in 2012, when 402 soldiers died compared to 566 in 2011 and 711 in 2010, according to icasualties.

The steep decline in ISAF casualties last year has in part been attributed to the fact that Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are increasingly leading the fight against Taliban insurgents as NATO forces prepare to withdraw next year.

"The impressive growth of the ANSF and the fact that the ANSF are taking the security lead in areas where 87 percent of the population lives has also contributed to the reduction in coalition deaths on the battlefield," ISAF spokesman Jamie Graybeal told AFP.

"Every day the ANSF are conducting highly successful unilateral operations across Afghanistan and playing a leading role in the vast majority of conventional operations.

"This is proof that the campaign is progressing from one primarily focused on coalition-led combat operations to one focused on the train, advise and assist mission."