KABUL, Afghanistan -- Government troops intervened in Afghanistan's latest outbreak of deadly fighting among warlords, flying from the capital to the far west on US and NATO airplanes to retake an air base contested in the violence, officials said yesterday.
Meanwhile, in other examples of the insecurity dogging the run-up to October elections, Taliban militants killed a community leader for encouraging people to vote and gunned down six Afghan soldiers at a checkpoint, officials said.
The US-trained Afghan National Army's move in the far western province of Herat was the latest attempt by President Hamid Karzai to quell local conflicts in a country where warlords control large areas.
Although the soldiers seized the contested air base at Shindand, 370 miles west of the capital, Kabul, battles continued between the forces of Ismail Khan, governor of Herat, and several rival warlords.
One of the rivals, Amanullah, said his men exchanged artillery fire with Khan's troops and defeated one attempted offensive yesterday north of Shindand. He said that his opponents had brought tanks and rocket-launchers to the front line but that there were no new casualties.
The national army troops moved into the Shindand base overnight. Forces loyal to Amanullah, who captured the base from pro-Khan fighters a day earlier, left without resistance.
"We left, and they entered," said Amanullah, an ethnic Pashtun commander who uses only one name. "All our troops have moved to the front lines."
A statement from Karzai's office said he was pleased with the swift action of the army. Further operations by the warring militias "will not be tolerated," it said.
But it was not clear how Karzai would resolve a dispute that exposes anew how warlords, not the central government, control swaths of the country more than two years after the fall of the Taliban.
Khan, an ethnic Tajik, has long dominated Herat. Amanullah and at least two other commanders launched simultaneous attacks against Khan's forces around the province Friday. They have expressed support for Karzai, a fellow Pashtun.
Some officials in Kabul were quick to denounce them.
"The militia attacked Herat's legal government," said Mohammed Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Tajik-led Defense Ministry. "It is an illegal action that benefits Afghanistan's enemies."
The national army troops who arrived in Shindand were an advance party of about 1,500 government soldiers leaving the capital on planes provided by the American and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan.
Trucks loaded with Afghan soldiers rumbled into Kabul's airport yesterday afternoon with US soldiers driving and manning machine guns mounted on the cabs.
Karzai has sent units from the force, always accompanied by Americans, to trouble spots across the north and west this year.
The deployments have had a frosty welcome from regional power brokers, including Khan, who have also resisted a UN-sponsored drive to disarm their private armies but have faced no major battles.
The United Nations is concerned that the failure to control the warlords leaves Afghanistan's first presidential election, slated for Oct. 9, vulnerable to intimidation.
About 10 million Afghans have signed up for the election, according to UN figures released yesterday, the last official day for registration. The rough estimate of the electorate was 9.8 million.
Despite anecdotal evidence of fraud and underage registration, officials hail the turnout as evidence of Afghans' yearning for peace.
Voters have signed up despite bombings and shootings attributed to the Taliban that have killed more than 30 election workers and civilians registered for the poll.
In the latest attacks, suspected Taliban beat a tribal council member, Dilber Khan, in Kandahar's Maruf District for urging people to vote, said district chief Syed Ali. Khan died from his injuries yesterday, Ali said.
The Taliban also attacked a checkpoint in southern Kandahar Province before dawn yesterday, killing six Afghan soldiers before fleeing, police said.