Commentary: Afghanistan war exacts heavy toll on Fort Lewis

For Fort Lewis, it's been a heart-breaking two weeks. In that short time, at least seven of its soldiers have been killed by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

Their deaths are part of a much larger picture. The war in Afghanistan — long a sideshow to Iraq — has become tougher and bloodier than at any time been since the Taliban were driven from power almost eight years ago. The United States and its NATO allies have seen their casualty rates jump sharply in recent months.

It's not that the Taliban have suddenly become a vastly more formidable fighting force. If anything, the contrary is true. The allies are suffering more combat deaths because they are engaging the insurgents more aggressively.

President Barack Obama has ordered 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. With their allies, U.S. soldiers and Marines are challenging the insurgents on their home territory, pushing to deny the Taliban the urban sanctuaries and opium fields the insurgency needs to survive.

Unfortunately, the Taliban has been doing much more than surviving lately; it's been flourishing in the southern regions of the country. So much so that U.S. commanders describe the position of the allies and Afghan government as deteriorating.

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