Three U.S. Soldiers Die in Afghanistan Roadside Attack

By Jason Straziuso and Fisnik Abrashi
Associated Press
Monday, August 3, 2009

KABUL, Aug. 2 -- Three American soldiers died in a complex militant ambush in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, raising NATO's two-day August death toll to nine and continuing the bloodiest period of the eight-year war for U.S. and allied troops.

The U.N.'s representative in Afghanistan, meanwhile, called for peace talks with the Taliban's top leadership, saying deals with local militant commanders as proposed by Britain's foreign secretary would not be enough to end the violence.

Kai Eide's call is another indication that parts of the international community favor reaching out to the top echelons of the radical Islamist movement in their attempts to bring peace as the conflict widens and as Western public opinion against such an overture wavers in the face of rising death tolls.

Militants in eastern Afghanistan killed the three U.S. troops with gunfire after attacking their convoy with a roadside bomb, the U.S. military said.

The deaths on Sunday brought to nine the number of NATO troops killed this month, after six died on Saturday. Six Americans are among the dead. July was the deadliest month for international troops since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion; 74 foreign troops, including 43 Americans, died.

A record 62,000 U.S. troops are now in Afghanistan, more than double from a year ago. President Obama has increased the U.S. focus on Afghanistan as the Pentagon begins pulling troops out of Iraq. Other NATO countries have about 39,000 troops in Afghanistan.

"We have a lot more troops in the country. We have a lot more operations ongoing, and it increases our contact with the enemy, and that unfortunately results in an increase in casualties," said Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker, a U.S. military spokeswoman.

Sidenstricker said she could release no more details about Sunday's attack, including the province in eastern Afghanistan where it occurred. Military officials still had to inform family members of the deaths, she said.

Three American troops, two Canadians and one French soldier died on Saturday.

Roadside bombs have become militants' weapon of choice in Afghanistan, and the number of such attacks has spiked this year. U.S. troops say militants are now using bombs with little or no metal in them, making them harder to detect. Militants are also piling bombs and planting several bombs in one small area.

U.S. commanders long predicted a spike in violence in Afghanistan this summer, the country's traditional fighting season, and Taliban militants have promised to disrupt the country's Aug. 20 presidential election.

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