The U.S. military says coalition
forces in Afghanistan killed an estimated 15 insurgent fighters in a night-time
Afghan militia and government troops, along with their U.S. allies, engaged
the force of suspected Taleban loyalists in the southeast Kandahar Province.
The area was once the stronghold of the former Taleban regime, ousted by
its Afghan opponents and U.S. forces in late 2001.
It borders Zabul province, which during the past month has seen some of the
most intense fighting since the fall of the Taleban. The coalition troops involved
in the battle are currently staging an offensive in the region, dubbed Operation
Mountain Viper, in an effort to root out Taleban positions.
"Mountain Viper" appears to have taken a heavy toll on the Taleban and other
insurgents, including remnants of the al-Qaida terror network and troops commanded
by rebel warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
Since the operation began on August 30, the U.S. military estimates 100 insurgents
have been killed.
But Afghan-based U.S. military spokesman Sergeant-Major Harry Sarles says
a high body count is not the prime objective.
He cites a similar campaign in provinces farther to the north, called Operation
Warrior Sweep, which saw very few insurgent deaths.
"We do not measure success only by the number of anti-coalition forces killed
in action," he said. "In Warrior Sweep we had great success in eliminating
the influence of anti-coalition forces, even though there were a relatively
few number of enemy KIA [killed in action]."
The insurgents have recently increased attacks on Afghan police and military
targets in the area. Some observers say the rise in such attacks is due to
the Taleban seeking to take up secure positions before winter weather, when
passage to and from their mountain bases will become extremely difficult.