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Dozens of Taliban Killed in Clash With US, Afghan Forces 

Details are emerging about an hours-long intense battle in western Afghanistan that has resulted in significant casualties for the Taliban.  Two American service personnel and several Afghan soldiers also are reported to have been killed. 

A World Food Program convoy under Afghan military escort came under attack by insurgents Saturday in the Bala Baluk district in Farah province.

The convoy, which included 14 contracted trucks carrying 500 metric tons of food rations, was targeted by roadside bombs and mortar fire.

U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Christine Sidenstricker tells VOA News that a U.S. quick response force was called in, engaged in combat and then radioed for additional help.

"As the engagement went on and the enemy continued with strong fire, air support was called for," said Commander Sidenstricker. "Helicopters and airplanes came and started first with a show of force.  Sometimes simply flying overhead is enough to make the enemy disperse and allow the engagement to end.  When that did not happen bombs were dropped and that ended the engagement."

The U.N. World Food Program says none of its trucks were damaged nor any of its personnel injured and the rations were delivered.

Afghan Army and provincial officials say up to 50 Taliban died in the battle, which lasted for several hours.

A woman and a teenage girl are also reported to have died. Commander Sidenstricker says that is under investigation. 

"We also have reports of civilian casualties, but the info we have from the Afghan National Army on the ground is that it is believed that that was caused by insurgent mortar fire," she said.

The Bala Baluk district, dominated by the Taliban, has been the scene of previous intense battles, some of which have caused significant civilian deaths.

This latest incident comes at a time when Afghanistan is witnessing its worst violence of the eight-year-long war following the ouster of the Taliban from power in 2001.

U.S. forces make up the majority of the 100,000 foreign military personnel in Afghanistan.  The Obama administration is considering an increase in troop levels to counter increased military casualties from improvised explosive devices.

A resurgent Taliban have been able to extend their influence to larger chunks of the country, which is now facing potential political turmoil following a presidential election tainted by allegations of fraud. 

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