The Western military on Sunday suffered its most lethal day in a month in Afghanistan, with five troops killed in the country’s south and east, the NATO force said.
Meanwhile, the Afghan government said an Afghan diplomat kidnapped by insurgents two years ago in Pakistan’s tribal areas had been freed a day earlier. A brief statement from the presidential palace credited “persistent efforts” on the part of both the Pakistani and Afghan governments but gave no details.
The envoy, Abdul Khaliq Farahi, was released in eastern Afghanistan — across the border from where he was seized. Insurgents based in Pakistan’s tribal areas are able to move back and forth across the frontier into Afghanistan with little impediment.
Fighting generally eases as the Afghan winter sets in, because many Taliban and other fighters spend the winter in Pakistan, and snow in the high mountain passes makes it difficult to move between the two countries. However, this year, clashes have persisted even as the weather begins to turn cold.
The Taliban and the main insurgent group active in Afghanistan’s east, the Haqqani network, both appear determined to show they can fight on in the face of a concerted NATO campaign targeting midlevel field commanders. Hundreds have been killed in pinpoint strikes over the last several months, military officials have said.
The NATO force gave no details about the three fatalities in the east and the two in the south, including the nationalities of those killed. Large numbers of U.S. forces serve in both regions, particularly the south.
Americans make up two-thirds of the about 150,000 Western troops fighting in Afghanistan, and U.S. casualties have been commensurate with that. Prior to Sunday’s deaths, American fatalities made up 438 of the 639 members of the NATO force killed so far this year, according to the website icasualties.org.
The 2010 total is already the highest annual toll of the war, which is now in its 10th year. Sunday’s was the highest single-day fatality total since Oct. 14, when eight troops were killed.
Afghan civilians have been dying in record numbers as well. Three civilians were killed in explosions in southern Afghanistan on Sunday that also killed three Afghan policemen.
The NATO force also said an Afghan child in Kandahar province was accidentally killed Sunday, apparently by Western artillery fire. Another child was injured in the incident, which occurred after a Western patrol came under attack in volatile Zhari district, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said in a statement.
While attention has been focused on a major American offensive on the outskirts of Kandahar city, the hub of the south, the east also has seen persistent insurgent attacks.
In Nangarhar province, where a squad of gunmen and suicide bombers had attacked a large NATO air base on Saturday, insurgents on Sunday set a dozen NATO fuel tankers ablaze, according to provincial officials.
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