Reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan — In one of the deadliest 24-hour spans in recent weeks for American forces, eight U.S. soldiers were killed in three separate attacks in southern Afghanistan late Tuesday and Wednesday, including a coordinated assault on an Afghan elite police headquarters in the southern city of Kandahar.
In the first attack, an insurgent rammed his explosives-filled car into the main gate of the Afghan police compound late Tuesday night while other militants opened fire with automatic rifles and rocket launchers, NATO and Afghan authorities said. Three U.S. troops were killed, along with an Afghan police officer and five Afghan civilian workers.
Members of the elite police force, known as the Afghan National Civil Order Police, had recently been assigned to Kandahar to establish new checkpoints throughout the city, the birthplace of the Taliban movement and an area regarded as crucial in the U.S. military's strategy to bring an end to nine years of war in Afghanistan.
Thousands of troops are being deployed throughout Kandahar province in a bid to wrest control of the region from the Taliban and allow the start of social service and infrastructure projects that can boost Afghans' confidence in President Hamid Karzai's weak civilian government.
NATO soldiers and Afghan police were able to keep insurgents from breaching the compound, the alliance said. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi disputed that, claiming that insurgents managed to break into the compound and battle troops and police for 1-1/2 hours. Ahmadi said that the car bomber and another insurgent died, but three others escaped.
On Wednesday, four more U.S. soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan, a NATO spokeswoman said. A fifth U.S. service member was killed during a small-arms attack, also in southern Afghanistan. The spokeswoman would not say where specifically the attacks occurred and had no further details surrounding the deaths.
The violence late Tuesday and Wednesday raised to 237 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year, according to the independent website icasualties.org. So far this month, 35 U.S. troops have been killed, compared to 60 in June. The death toll for international troops in Afghanistan this year has risen to 368.