Taliban IEDs kill five NATO troops in Afghanistan

Taliban IEDs – or homemade bombs – have become the Afghanistan war's biggest killer of international troops, a fact highlighted by the deaths of five NATO troops killed by IEDs this weekend.

Denis Sinyakov/Reuters/File
A Canadian soldier with 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment uses a metal detector to search for improvised explosive devices (IED) in a courtyard of an abandoned house outside the village of Nakhonay in Panjwai district, southern Afghanistan, June 9. Taliban IEDs killed five NATO troops in the southern province of Helmand this weekend.

• A daily summary of global reports on security issues.

Taliban IEDs – or homemade bombs – killed five NATO soldiers in two volatile regions of Afghanistan on Saturday as reports emerged of renewed Taliban attacks against remote areas far from the coalition buildup in the country’s south and east. The deaths are part of a rising tide of NATO casualties, which are higher now than at any point in the nine-year war.

And on Sunday, officials said that a suicide bomber killed three civilians in Kabul, just two days before an international conference hosting representatives from about 60 nations.

As for the NATO troop deaths, Agence France-Presse reports that four of the deaths were caused by three different blasts from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that occurred in the southern Helmand province.

The fifth died in an IED explosion in the east, where American soldiers from the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) have been taking losses in an ongoing battle with the Taliban.

US troops have been involved in a major offensive in eastern Kunar province, partnering with Afghan forces to reportedly take on insurgents massed near the Pakistani border.

Little has been said officially about the progress of the operation, though ISAF has announced significant casualties from the region in recent weeks.

ISAF focus on Afghanistan's south, but ...

ISAF forces have focused their efforts on the country’s south in recent weeks, devoting significant manpower to places like Kandahar and Helmand provinces, which have long been considered Taliban strongholds.

As the Monitor previously reported from Kandahar, US officers say they are making small but important gains against the Taliban on their home turf. But the insurgents still enjoy a home field advantage. Saturday’s casualties – and many others like them – make clear that significant challenges remain.

While he and other officers paint a picture of “slow and steady progress,” the fact remains that large numbers of Taliban are already in the city, and urban combat to root them out is off the table for now, since it carries the likelihood of significant civilian casualties.

Coalition forces in the south are engaged in a “hearts and minds” effort to peel away support for the Taliban by targeting militants, supporting local government, and clearing the way for development projects.

... Taliban head elsewhere

But with their attention focused on the south, the Taliban appear to be looking for holes in coalition defenses elsewhere in the country by sending forces into remote areas far from the main firefight.

As the New York Times reports, large numbers of Pakistani Taliban have reportedly attacked targets in the remote Barg-e-Matal district of Nuristan province multiple times over the last six weeks. US officials are reluctant to divert forces from the south and say the clashes may be “scattered fighting” among “local factions.” The residents of Nuristan sound less calm.

“We are getting fires from southeast, northwest, and other directions,” Maulavi Qahir, the district governor of Barg-e-Matal, said in a telephone interview on Saturday. Shooting could be heard in the background.

“We have only 190 Afghan Border Police and Afghan National Police in the district center and in our check-posts,” Mr. Qahir said. “There are no American or Afghan commandos in the district center. They all left the district center last month.”

June was the deadliest month of the nine-year-old war for coalition forces, who suffered 102 casualties, according to icasualties.org, an independent website that tracks deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

So far, 55 ISAF soldiers have died in July, making it the second most deadly month of the year, and 57 percent of casualties this year have been caused by IEDs, according to icasualties.org.


of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.