KABUL (AFP) - Seven US soldiers and an election candidate have been killed in a wave of weekend attacks in Afghanistan, officials said Sunday, as President Hamid Karzai called for a rethink of Washington’s war strategy.
Two soldiers were killed Sunday in separate attacks, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.
Five troops were killed in other militant violence in the south and east of the country, the areas hardest hit by the Taliban-led insurgency now reaching the end of its ninth and most deadly year.
A US military spokesman said all seven soldiers were US nationals.
Karzai told the visiting Norbert Lammert, president of the German parliament, that the counter-insurgency strategy must be rethought, according to a statement from Karzai’s office.
“Speaking about Afghanistan and regional security (Karzai) said that the strategy of the war on terrorism must be reassessed,” the statement said.
“The experience over the past years showed that fighting (Taliban) in Afghan villages has been ineffective and is not achieving anything but killing civilians.”
International troops have suffered escalating casualties as they step up the fight against a Taliban insurgency which has become increasingly deadly since the militants were ousted from power in a US-led invasion in late 2001.
The number of foreign soldiers killed in the war so far this year has now reached 472, compared with 521 who died during all of 2009, according to an AFP tally based on a count by the independent www.icasualties.org website.
Civilian casualties have also risen, but insurgents were responsible for over three quarters of the 1,271 deaths and 1,997 people wounded in the first six months of this year, according to a UN report this month.
About 141,000 US and NATO troops are deployed in Afghanistan to fight the insurgency and protect Karzai’s US-backed government.
The country is due to hold its second post-Taliban parliamentary elections on September 18 amid fears that insurgent attacks might disrupt the vote.
Candidate Abdul Manan, running for a seat in the western province of Herat, was shot dead Saturday in an attack blamed on the militants.
The Taliban are accused of being responsible for the deaths of two other candidates since the launch of the election campaign in early July.
Police Sunday also found the bodies of five members of the campaign team of female candidate Fawzya Galani, days after 10 of them were abducted.
The Taliban had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping in Herat province on Wednesday.
“We have found five of the abducted members of Ms. Galani’s campaign team. They were dumped on the side of a mountain,” said Nisar Ahmad Popal, the chief of Adrskan district, where the bodies were found.
“We don’t know where the other five are,” he said.
Police in the northern province of Faryab meanwhile said four women working for a local group treating drug addicts were snatched by gunmen on Saturday. Provincial police chief Khalilullah Andarabi blamed the abduction on “armed opposition groups”, a term used for the Taliban and other militants.
ISAF said eight civilians were also killed in a wave of attacks on Saturday including a suicide bombing.
NATO troops backed by Afghan security forces killed up to 15 insurgents in a battle in the eastern province of Paktia late on Saturday, ISAF said.
Separately, police on Sunday shot dead two suicide bombers as they headed towards the office of the governor of Farah province in the southwest.
The violence follows an attempt by a Taliban suicide bomber squad on Saturday to storm two US-run military bases in the eastern province of Khost. The US-led military said 30 rebels, 13 of them wearing suicide vests, staged the failed attacks on the bases, in which all were killed during gunbattles.
Violence has picked up in recent months as the Taliban insurgency has gathered pace in the face of a troop “surge” by international forces.