Afghans pay in blood, losing an estimated 300 a month to take lead in fight against Taliban

Afghan forces are taking over more territory and leading more operations with less U.S. help, but they are paying the price in blood.

Casualties doubled last year and are rising again to roughly 300 troops and police killed each month, according to an Afghan security official who spoke anonymously because the figure has not been publicly undisclosed.

The Americans are trying to teach them after every tactical error, while there are still enough foreign forces to serve as a safety net ahead of the December 2014 NATO troop drawdown.

U.S. and Afghan officials say their most realistic goal is for Afghan forces to maintain a bloody equilibrium with the Taliban, holding urban areas and trade routes, buying time for the economy to improve while persuading the Taliban to stop fighting.