4 more killed in Afghanistan, Obama convenes council

Monday, November 23, 2009 - 4:10pm

KABUL – Bombings and shootings killed 12 people across Afghanistan, including four American troops and three children, as President Barack Obama convened his war council again Monday to fine-tune a strategy to respond to the intransigent violence.

Obama is considering sending tens of thousands more troops to fight an increasingly virulent insurgency, and pressure has been mounting for a decision. NATO is also calling on allied nations to add to their military presence.

The violence has continued unabated despite the tens of thousands of foreign troops already in the country since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

Three U.S. troops were killed in southern Afghanistan on Sunday — two in a bombing and a third in a separate firefight — while another was killed in the east of the country in a bombing on Monday, NATO said in a statement.

The deaths bring the number of Americans killed in Afghanistan in November to 15. October was the deadliest month for U.S. troops in the eight-year war, with 58 dead.

To the north, insurgents attacked German soldiers and Afghan National Police with grenades and gunfire as the troops drove through an area northwest of Kunduz city, wounding two Afghan policemen. Air support was called in and the insurgents fled, the German military said in a statement.

A suicide bombing also struck the same province, which has seen a spike in militant attacks in recent months. The bomber, who was targeting a police convoy, killed five civilians, including three children, the Interior Ministry said. Another five people were wounded in the attack, which missed the convoy, it said.

Separately, three Afghan soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in the volatile southern province of Helmand, in the Musa Qala district, the Defense Ministry said. It did not give further details.

NATO currently has about 71,000 troops in Afghanistan, nearly half of them American. The U.S. military also has another 36,000 soldiers in Afghanistan who serve outside NATO under independent command.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, has said more U.S. forces are needed to head off a failure against Taliban militants. He has recommended about 40,000 additional troops.

Obama is expected to announce a decision in the next few weeks. On Monday, he called a high-powered national security team together for their 10th session since August.

Alliance spokesman James Appathurai said in Brussels on Monday that NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is in the midst of intense negotiations aimed at getting more troops, equipment, funding and other resources for the newly established NATO Training Mission, which is tasked with building up Afghanistan's nascent army and police force.

President Hamid Karzai said last week during his inauguration to his second five-year term that he wanted Afghan forces to take the lead in ensuring security for his country within five years, with foreign troops relegated to providing support and training.

Although several allies have said they will dispatch some reinforcements, most NATO nations have so far shied away from making firm commitments.

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