KABUL, Afghanistan -– Two NATO service members were killed by insurgents in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, the Western military alliance said, the latest in a surge of Taliban attacks against foreign forces and Afghan civilians.
The military coalition didn’t provide details on the assault or the nationalities of the dead, although most of the international troops stationed in that part of the country are American. Saturday’s deaths bring the number of international forces killed in Afghanistan this month to at least 42.
NATO also reported Saturday that a combined Afghan-NATO security detail had sought out and killed a Taliban financier in northern Balkh province after he threatened them. The man, Maulawi Abdul Rahman, reportedly had transferred money, weapons and explosives to other insurgents for use in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.
Over the last three months, insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, including roadside bombings, rocket attacks and armed assaults, are up 11% compared with the same period last year. According to figures released this week, the number of attacks in June — more than 3,200 — was the highest for any month since fighting escalated in July 2010, suggesting that the Taliban is far from defeated after more than a decade of war.
However, coalition analysts caution against using attack figures as a barometer of the war’s progress, pointing out that the Taliban has been pushed out of the most heavily populated areas to more remote regions.
Even as the number of attacks has risen, and the number of Afghan army casualties increased as its forces assume more responsibility, the total number of U.S. and foreign troops killed in Afghanistan this year is down from last year.
So far this year, 262 NATO troops have been killed, compared with 323 killed during the first six months of 2010, according to icasualties.org, which tracks such deaths.
NATO offered two possible reasons for the higher attack figures. This year saw an earlier start to the fighting season because of a shortened poppy season, when insurgents are busy tending their crops. And more Afghan forces are in front-line positions, which could push up the numbers.
As has been the pattern for some time, roadside bombs remain the insurgents’ attack method of choice, responsible for more than half of all American deaths this month.
Elsewhere, in eastern Paktika province, dozens of Pakistani insurgents from the Wazir tribe attacked an Afghan border police compound Saturday, said Mukhles Afghan, a spokesman for the Paktika governor, leading to several hours of fighting that left 10 insurgents dead and two police officers wounded.
An Afghan border police official who requested anonymity said another border police company in another part of Paktika province had been overrun by Taliban fighters.
-- Hashmat Baktash in Kabul and Mark Magnier in New Delhi