NATO Suffers Deadliest Day This Year in Afghanistan

Published on
by
Agence France Presse

NATO Suffers Deadliest Day This Year in Afghanistan

by
Karim Talbi

A US soldier belonging to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) patrols Bagram airbase. Seven Americans, two Australians and one French soldier were killed on Monday as they pursued a nearly nine-year war against an insurgent Taliban militia that is seeking to overthrow the Western-backed government.(AFP)

KABUL — Thirteen NATO soldiers have been killed in two days in
Afghanistan, one of the deadliest bouts for the alliance this year,
underlining a growing Taliban momentum in defiance of calls for peace
talks.

Seven Americans, two Australians and one French soldier
were killed on Monday as they pursued a nearly nine-year war against an
insurgent Taliban militia that is seeking to overthrow the
Western-backed government.

Three more NATO troops were killed in
the south on Tuesday, two in a bomb attack and a British soldier during a
gun battle, said the Ministry of Defence in London and the
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Furthermore, two
foreign contractors, one of them American, were killed in a suicide
attack on an Afghan police training centre in the southern city of
Kandahar on Monday, the US embassy said.

The deaths of 10 NATO
soldiers made Monday the deadliest day for foreign troops in Afghanistan
since 14 Americans, including 11 US soldiers, died in two helicopter
crashes on October 26, 2009.

Of the 13 NATO soldiers killed on
Monday and Tuesday, all but the French and Australians were killed in
the south, heartland of the Taliban and where tens of thousands of
troops are building up operations around Kandahar.

The Islamist
militia recently vowed to unleash a new campaign of attacks on
diplomats, lawmakers and foreign forces.

It claimed a rocket
attack on a peace meeting in Kabul where 1,600 delegates from across
Afghanistan's political spectrum last week endorsed plans by President
Hamid Karzai to give jobs and money to militants who lay down arms.

That
the Taliban were not invited and that escalating violence has seen more
NATO soldiers killed in the first five months of 2010 compared to the
same period in the past, has seen many analysts dismiss peace efforts.

"The priority in Afghanistan should be improving security and
governance," Haroun Mir, director of Afghanistan's Centre for Research
and Policy, told AFP.

"The peace jirga has emboldened the Taliban
to see that everyone else -- including the international community -- is
trying to buy their favour."

The Taliban, who were overthrown by
the 2001 US-led invasion, have stepped up their campaign to rid
Afghanistan of the 130,000 foreign troops and have spread their
influence beyond their traditional stronghold in the south.

Waheed
Mujda, a political analyst who was a government official during the
1996-2001 Taliban regime, said militants have increased attacks in
reaction to the peace discussion.

"Taliban were quite unhappy
about the peace jirga discussions and the fact that neither the
withdrawal of foreign forces nor amendments to the constitution (to
include Islamic law) were discussed," Mujda said.

"So they have
intensified their operations because they want to be powerful and be in a
better position."

But NATO, US and Afghan soldiers are also
preparing their biggest offensive yet against the Taliban in Kandahar
province, with total foreign troop numbers in the country set to peak at
150,000 by August.

Officials said Afghan and foreign forces
killed 37 militants during operations late Monday in Kandahar and the
western province of Badghis.

President Barack Obama has ordered
the US war effort to be ramped up in the hope that an initial surge will
break the back of the Taliban insurgency and allow him to start drawing
down troops next year.

Obama and his military commanders are
banking on a push into the militant bastion of Kandahar -- the
birthplace of the Taliban and seat of their five-year government -- to
defeat the movement.

US military have warned that casualty tolls
will naturally climb during the increased operations.

According to
an AFP tally based on a count kept by the independent website icasualties.org, 248 foreign soldiers
have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year. Last year was the
deadliest yet with 520 killed.

The rising toll is unwelcome news
in Washington and London -- the two biggest contributors of troops
supporting Karzai's government -- with voters increasingly weary of
casualties in a seemingly endless foreign war.

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