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Originally published October 28, 2009 at 12:09 AM | Page modified October 29, 2009 at 5:14 PM

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Pentagon releases names of slain Fort Lewis soldiers

The Pentagon on Thursday released names of seven of the eight Fort Lewis-based soldiers who died Tuesday in roadside bombings in southern Afghanistan.

Fort Lewis soldiers killed in Afghanistan

The Pentagon on Thursday released names of seven of the eight Fort Lewis-based soldiers who died Tuesday in roadside bombings in southern Afghanistan.

Named were:

• Staff Sgt. Luis M. Gonzalez, 27, of South Ozone Park, N.Y.

• Sgt. Fernando Delarosa, 24, of Alamo, Texas.

• Sgt. Dale R. Griffin, 29, of Terre Haute, Ind.

• Sgt. Issac B. Jackson, 27, of Plattsburg, Mo.

• Sgt. Patrick O. Williamson, 24, of Broussard, La.

• Spc. Jared D. Stanker, 22, of Evergreen Park, Ill.

• Pfc. Christopher I. Walz, 25, of Vancouver, Wash.

Fort Lewis on Wednesday confirmed that the soldiers, who died in two separate attacks, were members of the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.

The two attacks made October the deadliest month of the eight-year war for Americans and foreshadowed more violence in the days before a presidential-runoff election.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attacks.

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Tuesday's roadside-bomb blasts came one day after 14 Americans died in two helicopter crashes and brought the total number of U.S. service members killed during the month to at least 55, according to a count by The Associated Press. The attacks also highlighted the danger to foreign forces from a rapid increase in bombs hidden along rural roads.

A senior military official in Washington, D.C., told McClatchy Newspapers that one of the vehicles hit Tuesday was a Stryker troop transport in the Arghandab Valley of Kandahar province. Strykers are eight-wheeled armored vehicles used extensively in Iraq and deployed to Afghanistan for the first time this summer by the Fort Lewis-based brigade.

Col. Wayne Shanks, spokesman for U.S. forces in the country, said bombing was followed by a firefight in which an unspecified number of insurgents were killed, Shanks said.

The eighth Fort Lewis soldier was killed in another roadside bombing in nearby Zabul province, Shanks said.

The 5th Brigade, with more than 3,800 soldiers, has been patrolling in the Arghandab Valley and other areas of southern Afghanistan.

Two other Fort Lewis soldiers were killed in October — Spc. Kyle Coumas, 22, of Lockeford, Calif., who died Oct. 21, and Spc. Michael Dahl Jr., 23, of Moreno Valley, Calif., who died Oct. 17.

The increase in casualties comes as a consensus is emerging within the Obama administration that more U.S. troops are needed in Afghanistan. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, reportedly has requested up to 40,000 additional troops to pursue insurgents in Taliban strongholds, protect civilians and promote development to build support for the government.

Administration officials quoted by The New York Times on Tuesday said President Obama's advisers are coalescing around a strategy aimed at protecting about 10 top population centers, describing an approach that would stop short of an all-out assault on the Taliban while still seeking to nurture long-term stability.

As officials described it, the debate no longer is over whether to send more troops, but how many more will be needed to guard the most vital parts of the country. The question of how much of the country should fall under direct protection of U.S. and NATO forces will be central to deciding how many troops Obama will dispatch.

The administration is looking at protecting Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, Herat, Jalalabad and a few other village clusters, officials said. The first of any new troops would be assigned to Kandahar, the spiritual capital of the Taliban, which is seen as a center of gravity in pushing back insurgent advances.

But military planners also are pressing for enough troops to safeguard major agricultural areas as well as regional highways essential to the economy — tasks that would require significantly more reinforcements beyond the 21,000 deployed by Obama this year.

U.S. officials have warned that an increase in insurgent attacks is likely before the Nov. 7 runoff election between President Hamid Karzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.

"They are trying to influence the people of Afghanistan to prevent them from voting," Shanks said.

There also was a spike in attacks leading up to the first round of voting two months ago; 45 U.S. troops were killed in July and 51 in August, previously the deadliest months for Americans in the military campaign.

The Aug. 20 election was marred by reports of widespread fraud.

About 68,000 U.S. troops currently are in the country, along with 38,000 from 42 countries serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

Compiled from the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Associated Press, McClatchy Newspapers and Seattle Times staff reporters Hal Bernton

and Marc Ramirez

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