Afghan and NATO-led forces killed 65 Taliban rebels when they called in air strikes as the insurgents smuggling weapons across the border from Pakistan, the Afghan Interior Ministry said on Sunday.Afghanistan has seen a steady escalation of violence this year with up to 30 percent more clashes with hardline Islamist Taliban insurgents fighting to overthrow the pro-Western Afghan government and eject 50,000 foreign troops from the country.
Afghan and Western military officials say the Taliban arm and train in Pakistan’s restive border region, largely outside the control of the Pakistani government.
The Paktia provincial governor’s office said 72 insurgents were killed in Saturday’s air strike near the Pakistani border, but a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said that number was “way too high”.
It is not ISAF’s policy to release Taliban casualty figures.
The group was smuggling weapons on horses and in two saloon cars when Afghan and foreign forces engaged them and called in air support, the Interior Ministry said.
Elsewhere in Paktia province, Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces killed four insurgents and detained seven others, the Afghan Defence Ministry said in a statement.
And near the provincial capital Gardez, ISAF troops called in an air strike to kill three insurgents after they were spotted planting a roadside bomb, ISAF and the Interior Ministry said.
While Afghan and foreign forces have killed large numbers of insurgents in clashes this year, there has been no let up in Taliban attacks and the rebels have extended their attacks to parts of the country previously considered safe.
NATO commanders admit the conflict cannot be won simply by killing insurgents.
Instead, they say, more Afghan soldiers and police need to be trained to bring security in order for development to be speeded up and undercut Taliban support.