Sunday, October 4, 2009

Afghan firefight leaves 10 soliders

EIGHT foreign soldiers killed in a firefight in eastern Afghanistan were American, NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said Sunday.

"I can confirm that they were all American," an ISAF spokesman in Kabul said, referring to an attack on Saturday in Nuristan province, which also claimed the lives of two members of the Afghan National Security Forces.

Tribal militia launched attacks on the foreign and Afghan fighters from a mosque and a village yesterday, the ISAF said in a statement.

The firefight happened in Nuristan province, it said without elaborating on the exact location. “The sources of the conflict in the area involve complex tribal, religious and economic dynamics,” it added.

“Coalition forces effectively repelled the attack and inflicted heavy enemy casualties while eight ISAF and two ANSF service members were killed,” the statement said, referring to Afghan National Security Forces.

Eastern Afghanistan has seen an escalation in insurgent-related violence in recent months as Taliban-linked militias spread their footprint beyond regions in the south _ such as Kandahar and Helmand provinces _ where they have long held sway.

The intelligence head of Nuristan province, Mohammad Farooq, said the fight took place in the Kamdesh region of the province, near the border with Pakistan.

ISAF said the militants had fire on the coalition forces in outposts.

Almost eight years after the US led an invasion of Afghanistan to topple the Taliban regime, the militants are on the march, with one think tank, the London-based International Council on Security and Development, estimating a permanent presence across 80 percent of the country.

The commander of the more than 100,000 NATO and US forces in Afghanistan, US General Stanley McChrystal, has described the Afghan security situation as “serious” and has reportedly requested up to 40,000 more troops.

Those extra troops would be sent mainly to the north and west of the country, the US military said.

“It is where we have the fewest troops,” a US official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“The Taliban are in a strong position. They want to show that they are everywhere,” said Mariam Abou Zahab, from the Centre for International Studies and Research in Paris.

North and west Afghanistan were calm until the start of this year, but have seen a sharp security deterioration in recent months, as Taliban insurgents intensified attacks before the August 20 presidential election.

Like in the south and the east, fighting between militants and international forces has now become a daily occurrence.

Political uncertainty since the election has exacerbated the tenuous security situation as no result has yet been declared in the presidential poll, which was marred by fraud allegations.

President Hamid Karzai, the subject of much of the fraud accusations, leads preliminary results with 55 per cent of the valid vote, while his main rival Abdullah Abdullah has around 28 per cent.

Auditing of suspect ballots from 3,063 ballot boxes is due to start tomorrow, electoral officials have said.

Source: The Australian

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