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Pentagon: Taliban Launch 'Complex' Attack on French Unit in Afghanistan

The Pentagon says the attack in Afghanistan Tuesday that killed 10 French troops and injured 21 others was a sophisticated attack by Taliban fighters, just 50 kilometers outside the capital, Kabul. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

U.S. military officers have said Taliban commanders have learned not to make large-scale attacks on U.S. or NATO forces, because they always lose badly. The officers say that is why insurgents in Afghanistan have moved more toward suicide bombings and other small-scale attacks.

But that analysis did not hold up in two attacks Monday involving dozens of insurgents, including the battle against the French unit on a road just east of Kabul. Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman described what happened.

"As I understand it, it was a complex attack involving multiple weapons systems - small arms, mortar, rockets - and lasted for several hours," he said.

Whitman says U.S. air power and French reinforcements on the ground eventually repelled the attack. Afghan officials say at least 13 insurgents were killed.

Tuesday's other major Taliban assault was a series of attacks on a U.S. base near the Pakistan border - the same base that was hit with a suicide bombing on Monday. No U.S. troops were killed in the attacks, but 10 Afghan civilians died in the bombing.

Whitman said he is not ready to characterize the large scale attacks as a change in Taliban strategy.

Analysts say attacks on European forces are aimed at influencing public opinion in Europe. But answering a question from a French reporter, Whitman could not say whether the large number of French casualties would make it even more difficult for the United States to convince France and other allies to send more troops to help end the Taliban's resurgence.

"I don't know if it makes it more difficult, he said. What it certainly does is [it] demonstrates the importance of taking on this mission. I think it is a reflection of the fact that this is an enemy that needs to be taken on."

France recently agreed to send 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan, but U.S. officials have had difficulty convincing other European governments to increase their commitments, and to allow their forces to do more fighting. Both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are very unpopular in Europe, and many of the governments being asked to send more troops could face serious political challenges if they do.