Guerrilla wars, deaths on rise

While the main focus of the national press has been on growing resistance to the U.S. presence in Iraq, organized violence also has been on the rise in Afghanistan.

The Associated Press reported a clash last weekend in which Afghan government troops battled hundreds of Taliban-linked fighters in the central part of the country. Four government soldiers were killed. Another major engagement occurred this week.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on a visit to the badly battered country, demanded Pakistan do more to prevent Taliban allies from launching attacks across the border with Afghanistan.

The fighting last Friday was in Uruzgan province. The governor of that area estimated government troops fought as many as 300 suspected Taliban guerrillas for four hours before the rebels faded away into the mountains.

The scene of the battle is about 190 miles southwest of the capital of Kabul.

Stepped-up attacks against the government have been attributed to the Taliban who were driven from power in 2001 by U.S. forces. In recent months, reports of a Taliban resurgence are prevalent, claiming they are regrouping and reorganizing.

Some press reports say Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar has divided the country into military zones and named commanders for each zone.

Sen. McCain said Pakistan is “not doing as much as it can” to halt cross-border raids. He said that issue would be discussed when the delegation met Saturday with Pakistan president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, in Pakistan.

“We are appreciative of the help that Pakistan has given us in the war on terror and in other ways, but we believe that more measures can be taken,” McCain said.

Last Friday US military headquarters in Afghanistan announced a special operations soldier was killed. He died of injuries received during combat operations near Orgun in Paktika province. Central Command said his death was the result of a “hostile fire incident.” No other details were given.

The U.S. reportedly has 11,500 troops in Afghanistan hunting for the Taliban and their allies. Other estimates place the number of American forces there at 8,500.

News reports have confirmed at least 53 U.S. casualties since the Afghan war began. An estimate of Afghan civilian deaths, based on verified reports from aid agencies, the U.N., eyewitnesses, television reports, newspapers and news agencies, puts the figure at 3,767. That number, 62 deaths a day on average, is for the period between Oct. 7 and Dec. 10, 2001. A more current total is unavailable.

In Iraq, as of last Saturday, 273 U.S. troopers had died since the start of military operations there. The British government has reported 48 deaths and Denmark military reported one. Since May 1, some 135 Americans have died in Iraq, according to military sources.

Accurate figures on civilian casualties are not available because many are unreported. The Web site www.Iraq Body, reports a range from 6,113 minimum deaths to 7,830 maximum casualties.

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