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Taliban ratchet up attacks on Afghan security forces

Russia promises more cooperation on NATO effort

By Katharine Houreld
Associated Press / November 4, 2010

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban militants carried out three attacks against Afghan security forces yesterday, targeting a police station, a border patrol, and an army checkpoint in strikes that left 12 people dead, officials said.

Meanwhile, NATO said, insurgents killed two coalition service members in separate attacks in the country’s north and south.

In the deadliest attack against Afghan forces, Taliban militants assaulted a police station in Nad Ali district of Helmand Province early yesterday. The fighting killed four insurgents and two civilians, said Helmand Province spokesman Daud Ahmadi.

Also in Helmand Province, a roadside bomb struck a border police car, killing three officers and wounding five others, said Ali Jan, the border police’s provincial head.

The attacks occurred two days after Taliban forces briefly overran a district seat in Ghazni Province, torching several government buildings. The 16 police officers stationed in the town disappeared during or after the attack; it is unclear whether they deserted or were captured.

The Afghan police are primarily a paramilitary force. Poor living conditions, high risk, and bad leadership have contributed to a high rate of attrition among the members, with nearly one in four leaving within a year. That, in turn, leaves the international coalition scrambling to plug the gaps.

In eastern Khost Province yesterday, insurgents using small arms attacked an army checkpoint, then a suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into it, the provincial commander said. Besides the suicide bomber, two soldiers were killed and six were wounded, General Raz Mohamed Oryakhail said.

In separate attacks, NATO said, insurgents killed one service member yesterday in northern Afghanistan, and a roadside bomb killed another in the south.

The statement did not provide details of the attacks or the nationalities of the slain service members.

Northern Afghanistan has traditionally been more stable than the south, but attacks and bombings in the region have increased in recent months, as NATO and Afghan troops have been conducting operations in the south.

It is unclear whether the southern operation is pushing Taliban insurgents into other parts of the country or whether the traditionally Pashtun insurgency has managed to build alliances with ethnic groups in the north.

The deaths yesterday bring the total number of NATO soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year to 609.

Meanwhile, Russia promised yesterday to do more to help NATO in Afghanistan but stopped short of making any specific commitments.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after talks with NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Moscow that Russia and NATO share interests in Afghanistan.

“We will expand our cooperation in Afghanistan,’’ Lavrov said. “It’s in our common vital interests.’’

Moscow has offered only lukewarm support for the US-led war in Afghanistan and has limited itself to letting NATO take military supplies across its territory. It said in response to NATO’s request to provide helicopters and training for Afghan pilots that it was ready to do so but only if the alliance members pay the bill.

Also yesterday, the US government said it will spend $511 million to expand its embassy in Kabul. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry described the work as a demonstration of America’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan.

“We make this commitment by commemorating the recent award of a $511 million contract to expand the US Embassy here in Kabul,’’ Eikenberry said during a ceremony at the construction site that marked the formal announcement of the contract. “We’re going to get a day when that embassy’s up and there’s not going to be these barriers out there, there’s no barbed wire, there’s not going to be all kinds of obstacles out there.’’

The road to the embassy, located in downtown Kabul, is currently blocked by large concrete barriers, and the building is surrounded by armed security guards.

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