Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan — Seven Western troops were killed Thursday in attacks across Afghanistan, military officials said, bringing the two-day toll for the NATO force to 13 and illustrating the war's widening reach.
Combat deaths this year are running at the highest level of the 9-year-old war, making 2010 the most lethal for Western troops' since the United States-led invasion that toppled the Taliban movement.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force released few details about the latest fatalities. It did not disclose the nationalities of those killed and provided only general details about where the deaths occurred.
The largest single fatal incident Thursday was reported in the west of the country, where three troops were killed in a roadside bombing. Contingents serving in the west, near the Iranian border, include Americans and Italians.
Three more deaths occurred in the south, two in an insurgent attack and another in a roadside bombing. Yet another fatality occurred in Afghanistan's east, where insurgents often infiltrate from Pakistan's lawless tribal areas. The majority of the troops in the east are American, but several other North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations have forces there as well.
A day earlier, four service members were killed by a roadside bomb in the south, considered the insurgency's heartland. The makeshift bombs — low-tech, but sometimes effective even against well-armored vehicles — are the No. 1 killer of Western troops in Afghanistan.
The other two deaths Wednesday occurred in a separate explosion in the south and an attack in the east.
U.S. troop strength is now about 100,000, bolstered by a buildup ordered in December by President Obama. The bulk of the American forces are in the south, where NATO is attempting to rout Taliban fighters in volatile Kandahar and Helmand provinces.
Even as the fighting pushes ahead, so do efforts by the government of President Hamid Karzai to broker some kind of political settlement with the Taliban. While no formal negotiations have begun, contacts have been taking place for months.
NATO officials say the Western military is helping to facilitate the informal talks by granting a measure of freedom of movement to Taliban leaders involved.
Meanwhile, the head of a newly formed government council to oversee any negotiations with the Taliban and other insurgent groups said he believed the reconciliation effort would move forward.
"We are taking our first steps," former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani said at a news conference in Kabul.