KABUL, Afghanistan — Four international troops were killed by a bomb early Sunday in southern Afghanistan, officials said, the latest deaths in the 12-year war.
Javid Faisal, a spokesman for the governor of southern Kandahar province, said the deaths occurred when a NATO patrol was on foot as part of a joint operation with the Afghan army and a bomb detonated in the Zhari district around 3 a.m. NATO didn’t release the nationalities in line with its policy, but Faisal said they were Americans.
The Taliban claimed responsibility. In a statement, it said that foreign troops were dropped by helicopter into the area at around 2 a.m., at which point its fighters detonated 10 improvised bombs. As NATO troops rushed to tend their wounded, two suicide bombers detonated vests stored in a nearby empty compound.
The militant group, which frequently exaggerates its claims, said 30 people were killed or wounded. NATO evacuated them by helicopter, but the Taliban claimed that “body parts of the invaders are still scattered around the area,” adding that it recovered two assault rifles, a rocket launcher and three pair of night-vision goggles left behind. Kandahar is the birthplace of the hard-line Islamist movement and its traditional power base.Homemade bombs and locally made land mines, referred to by the military as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, are among the top killers of Afghan and foreign soldiers and civilians. The devices, along with the use of suicide bombers and insider attacks, epitomize the stubborn effectiveness of the Taliban and related militant groups using low-cost, low-tech weaponry often made of little more than ball bearings and fertilizer against some of the world’s best-trained and most technologically proficient armies.
Monday marks the anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. After a dozen years of war, Afghanistan’s stubborn insurgency shows little sign of weakening, even as the American public and its counterparts in other foreign capitals would rather forget the drawn-out conflict, with its heavy toll in blood and treasure.
While Washington has vowed to continue training and supporting Afghan security forces, the lack of easily defined progress after more than a decade has fueled NATO’s decision to withdraw all foreign combat troops by late 2014. That’s led to a lower foreign death count in recent years as Afghans assume more responsibility for their nation’s defense.
But it’s also pushed up the death count among Afghan security forces and among civilians either killed in the cross-fire or as the insurgency turns its deadly gaze on anyone it deems a supporter of the Afghan government, including local officials, police and pro-government tribal leaders.
According to the independent website iCasualties.org, 106 U.S. troops have died so far in 2013 out of 136 foreign deaths, down from the peak year of 2010, when 499 of the 711 foreign deaths were American. In total, 3,385 foreign soldiers have been killed since 2001, of which 2,280 were Americans, 444 were Britons and 661 were from other countries, the group said.