ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The United States on Monday denied a Soviet report that an American adviser has been killed in battle in Afghanistan, saying there are no such U.S. personnel in that country.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said: "There are no American (military) advisers in Afghanistan.
"The only official (American) presence in that country is limited to our staff of 20 people at the embassy in Kabul. They are restricted to the capital city.
"There are no American advisers or officials traveling with the moujahedeen ," or rebels, she said.
The Soviet news agency Tass quoted Afghan Lt. Gen. Mohammed Nabi Azimi, who was describing the recent battle by government troops to reopen the road to the rebel-besieged city of Khost, as saying: "Among those killed there is at least one American adviser." No further details were given.
He spoke to a news conference in Kabul on Sunday, the eighth anniversary of the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan.
The United States supports the rebels fighting the pro-Soviet Afghan government by providing shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and other materiel aid, but it has not reported sending military advisers.
Oakley noted that the State Department has long urged Americans to stay out of Afghanistan but that "there have been a few private Americans who have not heeded our advice."
She said she had no information about whether American mercenaries had gone to Afghanistan. Some American journalists have visited the country, she added.
Siege Broken, Kabul Says
In the battle for the road to Khost, Radio Kabul said, government troops killed 1,603 guerrillas and broke a three-month siege of the town.
But rebels denied the report, saying that up to 1,500 Soviet paratroopers who landed in Khost four days ago were trapped there, along with 20,000 Afghan troops.
The anti-Marxist Islamic rebels for some time have held control of the sole ground route between Khost, near the border with Pakistan, and the provincial capital of Gardez.
But the state-run radio said the 72-mile road has been reopened "as a result of crushing blows by the country's brave armed forces."
It said seven Afghan soldiers, including an officer, were killed in the battle and 26 were wounded. It did not say when the operation began or provide details about the situation in Khost, 75 miles east of the capital of Kabul.
'Trying to Cross Path'
Guerrilla official Abdul Rahim denied the radio report, saying the guerrillas were resisting well.
Abdul Rahim said the Soviet claim last week of having advanced 25 miles toward Khost was partly true but that the Soviets still were "busy trying to cross a path" where the guerrillas had laid anti-tank mines.
The war in Afghanistan is closed to Western reporters and observers, making it impossible to verify independently any rival claims about the fighting.
The radio said Afghan troops seized many weapons from guerrillas, including rockets, anti-aircraft missiles, mortars and shells, during the battle.