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Attack on convoy could signal start of new fighting in Afghanistan

March 29, 2012 |  7:17 am

REPORTING FROM KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- The spring “fighting season” in Afghanistan may have begun.

In one of the first large-scale assaults since temperatures began warming up across the country, dozens of insurgents armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades staged a bold attack on a NATO supply convoy in western Afghanistan, Western and Afghan officials said Thursday.

At least three Afghan security guards were killed in Wednesday’s ambush in a mountainous area of the Gulistan district of Farah province, according to Rauf Ahmadi, a regional spokesman for the Afghan army. He said the assault was successfully repelled and about 30 insurgents were killed.

NATO aircraft responded to appeals for help from those in the convoy, the NATO force’s western command said in a statement. The attack took place along a major highway, local officials said.

The desperate call for Western air power underscored the challenges faced by Afghan security forces and private security personnel as they prepare to take over responsibility for safeguarding much of the country. The NATO force is seeking to largely wrap up its combat role in the coming year.  

Meanwhile, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force reported the death of a service member on Thursday in a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan. Although Western and Afghan forces managed to reclaim large swaths of territory in the south over the last two years, the insurgents have been filtering back into the region, the Taliban’s traditional heartland.

Fighting in Afghanistan between insurgents and Western troops usually tapers off during the colder months and resumes with the arrival of spring and the melting of the snow in mountain passes.


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Photo: An Afghan security guard gets medical treatment at a hospital in Herat, Afghanistan, on Wednesday after an attack on a NATO convoy  in Gulistan district. Credit: Jalil Rezayee / EPA.