At least 12 Taliban fighters killed in Afghanistan battles
MAIWAND DISTRICT, Afghanistan — U.S. and Afghan forces killed more than a dozen Taliban fighters in overnight shoot-outs in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Friday.
The renewed fighting in Helmand and Uruzgan provinces comes as key points of President Barack Obama’s long-awaited new strategy for Afghanistan were unveiled, including plans to send 4,000 more troops to train the Afghan army, which along with local police, have suffered the brunt of Taliban attacks, especially in southern Afghanistan in recent years.
The military said U.S. and Afghan troops detained one suspected militant and killed 11 others during a raid in Lashkar Gah, about 70 miles west of Kandahar, to eliminate a Taliban bomb-making cell operating in northern Helmand province.
The military said troops were fired upon as they neared a compound where Taliban fighters were believed to be spending the night. A gun battle broke out; 11 fighters were killed, and one captured in the shoot-out. No civilians were harmed, the military said.
In neighboring Uruzgan province, U.S. and Afghan soldiers killed two other Taliban members with an airstrike when they came across the fighters planting bombs beside a road in the Deh Rahwood district, the military said.
Afghan troops destroyed a bomb they found in a search of the area, and no civilian casualties were reported, the military said. The statement did not specify what happened to the third suspected fighter.
U.S. military officials also reported that more than 240 villagers in Wardak province, southwest of Kabul, the Afghan capital, were the first to graduate a three-week course for the new Afghan Public Protection Force program.
Military officials say the course will train villagers to help guard key government facilities and protect their communities against militants. But critics argue that arming tribesmen could spark fighting between rival villages and lead to the chaos that gave rise to the Taliban in the 1990s.