The U.S. military says more than 80 Taliban fighters were killed Saturday after they tried to ambush a group of U.S.-led coalition and Afghan troops. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad that Afghanistan's president also is calling for coalition forces to carry out fewer airstrikes, which have been blamed in scores of civilian deaths.
Coalition spokesman Major Chris Belcher said a group of Afghan and international forces were patrolling in the town of Musa Qala in southern Afghanistan's violent Helmand province, when Taliban forces suddenly ambushed them.
"The combined patrol immediately returned fire, maneuvered and employed close air support resulting in almost seven dozen Taliban killed during a six-hour engagement," Belcher said.
He said there were no coalition or Afghan troop casualties and no reports of civilian casualties. Taliban commanders have not publicly commented on the reported attack.
Such large-scale battles are unusual in Afghanistan, where Taliban forces prefer to carry out hit and run attacks or suicide bombings.
This year has been one of the deadliest in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. Resurgent Taliban forces, benefiting from the country's booming opium trade, have regrouped in the south and east of the country.
But in an interview with U.S.-broadcaster CBS News, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called for the U.S.-led coalition to curtail the use of airstrikes because they are killing too many civilians. He said the United States is not killing civilians deliberately, but he said people in Afghanistan do not understand why coalition forces continue to use air power in the fight against the Taliban.
U.S. and NATO officials say every use of air power is carefully considered and procedures try to minimize the risk to civilians.