Afghanistan is bracing for more attacks from militant insurgents, despite hopes that the fighting would ease during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which began Monday. A series of U.S. casualties have marked the start of the holy month.
The pace of life in most Muslim countries tends to slow down during Ramadan, as even the mildly religious refrain from eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours of the holy month.
But many observers say just the opposite may be true for Afghanistan's insurgency.
Forces loyal to the former Taleban regime and members of the al-Qaida terror network have been carrying out attacks on Afghan government targets and on U.S. and other foreign troops stationed in the country.
Some say those attacks are likely to increase as the militants, who see themselves as religious warriors, attempt to honor the month.
Senior advisor to the Afghan Interior Ministry, Shahmahmood Miakhel, says the government has been preparing for a possible rise in insurgent attacks.
The start of Ramadan, which varies slightly from country to country, began in Afghanistan at dawn on Monday.
On that day, just hours after sunrise, militants ambushed a U.S. convoy in Paktika province, injuring three soldiers, according to a U.S. military statement issued Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency says two men described as civilian contractors were killed in a separate ambush Saturday in the same province.
The CIA says the two men worked for the agency's operations directorate and had been tracking terrorists at the time of their deaths.
Two other CIA operatives have been killed on duty in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led war to overthrow the Taleban.