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US-Led Coalition, Afghan Forces Kill 169 Taleban Insurgents

26 September 2007

U.S.-led coalition forces say they have killed at least 169 Taleban insurgents in southern Afghanistan after they came under attack during combat patrols. Afghanistan has seen a surge in attacks in the past two years as the Taleban tries to take back lost territory. Daniel Schearf reports from Islamabad.

Combined Afghan army and U.S.-led coalition forces say they have repelled two separate attacks by Taleban insurgents in the past two days.

Coalition forces say insurgents fired on combat patrols in southern Afghanistan that were sweeping the area for Taleban fighters.

Afghan and coalition forces fought back with the help of artillery and air support, killing at least 65 Taleban in Uruzgan province, and at least 104 in Helmand province.

Only one coalition soldier was reported killed, and four were wounded during the fighting in Helmand.

U.S. Army Major Chris Belcher is the spokesman for coalition forces in Afghanistan. He says the success of the Helmand operation is a testament to how far the Afghan national army has come in the war against extremists.

"The Taleban are trying to take a stand," he said. "The Afghan national army is out there, going after the Taleban and ensuring us that the Taleban have no safe areas in southern Afghanistan."

Violence has increased in Afghanistan over the past 18-months as Taleban insurgents try to re-take lost territory from Afghan and coalition forces. Thousands have been killed in the fighting, the bloodiest in the six years since the overthrow of the Taleban.

Victoria Nuland, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, told reporters Tuesday that officials recognize there has been an increase in "terror tactics" such as kidnappings and improvised explosive devices. However, she says these are the tactics of a desperate enemy, not one who is taking territory.

"If you look at where we were a year ago, where we were fighting fiercely outside of Kandahar and some were predicting that Kandahar would fall," she said. "And, then as we headed into winter and the Taleban was planning some grand spring offensive where it was going to take mass swaths of territory in the south and east of Afghanistan, we are in far better shape today. And, it is the Taleban who are on the ropes."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai received renewed international support when he told the United Nations this week that terrorism is on the rise. He said Afghanistan is already pursuing peace talks with more moderate Taleban who have not joined terrorist networks such as al-Qaida.

The United Nations Security Council voted earlier this month to extend the mandate of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan for another year.

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