KABUL – One week after the Taliban announced their annual spring offensive, international forces in Afghanistan saw the deadliest day of the war this year.
Eight coalition troops — seven Americans and a German — as well as an Afghan interpreter were killed in attacks across Afghanistan on Saturday, adding to a rising death toll in the country.
In southern Kandahar province, five Americans and an Afghan interpreter were killed when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb, according to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and local officials.
In western Afghanistan, two more American troops were killed in a so-called insider attack, according to ISAF officials. The two victims were killed by an Afghan National Army soldier.
In northern Afghanistan, a member of the German special forces was killed — the first in nearly two years — and another was wounded, according to the German military’s website. The Germans were accompanying an Afghan operation in Baghlan province when they twice came under fire from insurgents, according to the website. German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière said the soldier was the first member of the special forces killed in Afghanistan, according to German media.
While coalition deaths are down significantly from the same time period last year, as Afghan troops take more responsibility for day to day fighting, they have been rising steadily with the traditional start to Afghanistan’s fighting season.
Saturday’s deaths brought the total number of international troops killed since the beginning of April to 23, and 50 for the year.
On April 27, the Taliban released a statement outlining plans for their spring offensive. Fighting tends to pick up as the weather warms in Afghanistan, as insurgents stream back over mountain passes from their winter redoubts in Pakistan.
Insider attacks, in which Afghan troops turn their weapons on their international counterparts, have been an increasing problem over the last year and accounted for about 15 percent of coalition deaths in 2012.
The bombing that killed the five Americans, occurred in Maiwand district of Kandahar province, according to a statement from the Kandahar provincial government. Four days earlier, three British troops were killed by a bomb in neighboring Helmand province.
While the U.S. and its allies have been ramping up the armor on military vehicles over the years, better protecting troops from improvised explosives, insurgents have been trying to keep pace by making bigger, deadlier bombs. The bombs, or improvised explosive devices — often plastic jugs filled with fertilizer — have been the biggest killer of international troops in Afghanistan since the U.S. invaded the country in 2001.
The massive blast that killed the British troops also killed nine Afghans and injured six more British troops. The British were traveling in a 15-ton Mastiff troop carrier, one of the most heavily armored vehicles in the British fleet. It was the first time British troops in Afghanistan were killed in a Mastiff.
Helmand and Kandahar provinces are considered the cradle of the Taliban and have been by far the deadliest provinces for coalition troops over the course of the war.