Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces killed dozens of Taliban fighters in the south of the country after an ambush by a large group of insurgents, the U.S. military said on Wednesday.Despite the high casualty rates among Taliban rebels whenever they clash directly with Afghan and foreign troops, the insurgency shows no sign of abating, but instead has spread from the south and east to areas previously considered safe.
In the latest fighting, Afghan forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition troops were ambushed by a large group of insurgents using small arms and rocket-propelled grenades in the Deh Rawud district of Uruzgan province on Tuesday, a U.S. military statement said.
“The Taliban fighters attempted to break contact and moved into a nearby compound causing women and children to flee the area,” it said. “Four separate precision air strikes effectively eliminated the insurgents who were trying to reinforce the enemy positions.”
Dozens of Taliban insurgents were killed, a U.S. military spokesman said. Afghan and foreign forces accuse the Taliban of courting civilian casualties by operating from homes and populated areas.
The Taliban aim to force Afghan and international troops to engage in continual military operations thus weakening Afghan support for the government and the presence of international forces, while hoping rising foreign casualties will lead to Western public opinion to demand the troops be withdrawn.
A campaign of suicide bombings in the cities is also aimed at sapping public confidence in the ability of the government and the 50,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan to provide security.
A senior Taliban commander said on Wednesday the insurgents had sent hundreds of suicide bombers to Afghan cities to carry out a fresh wave of attacks.
“We have sent hundreds of new and fresh Taliban suicide bombers to Afghan cities for attacks on occupying foreign troops and their Afghan slaves,” Mullah Hayatullah Khan told Reuters by satellite telephone from an unknown location.
“These Taliban suicide bombers were sent from Taliban camps to Afghan cities, including cities in the north of Afghanistan to find good targets,” he said.
More than 200 people have been killed in at least 130 suicide bomb attacks in Afghanistan so far this year, easily surpassing the figures for the whole of 2006. Next year, the commander said, would be even worse.
“Next year, 2008, will be the bloodiest year for U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan and we will make the Afghan land a graveyard for foreign forces,” he said.
Military commanders admit the fight to stop suicide bombings is a hard one which depends on the slow process of building up the Afghan police which until this year received a fraction of the funding that went into the army and remained notoriously corrupt, under-staffed, under-paid and under-trained.