Afghan police are under attack as Taleban insurgents target the country's vulnerable security force. From Islamabad, VOA correspondent Benjamin Sand says militants have mounted a series of attacks on local police in recent days with both sides suffering heavy casualties.

Just past sunset Thursday evening, scores of suspected Taleban insurgents surrounded a policeman's private house in an isolated corner of Paktiya province in eastern Afghanistan.

Local officials say the militants hoped to kidnap the officer and his family.

Luckily, they say, reinforcements arrived in time. The counterattack left at least 6 insurgents dead, with 7 others wounded.

Police say they recovered vehicles, automatic weapons and six rocket-propelled grenades from the scene.

A day earlier, police in neighboring Zabul district were less fortunate. A Taleban ambush killed 16 officers. Ten militants were also killed during the gun battle.

Interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary says Afghan police are now on the front line in the fight against Taleban insurgents.

"The police of Afghanistan is the only force that exists in those remote areas to fight with the insurgency and enforce law and order," said Bashary.

After a relatively quiet winter, U.S. and Afghan officials say that insurgency is, once again, heating up.

Security experts say the Taleban are intentionally targeting local police as they try to avoid direct confrontation with well-armed U.S. and NATO forces.

There are nearly 50,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, along with an estimated 35,000 trained and equipped Afghan National Army soldiers.

The police force has about 63,000 officers. Unlike the military, police are usually deployed in fewer numbers and to more remote locations.

Bashary says most are out-manned and out-gunned by the insurgents.

"The police must be equipped with much stronger weapons than currently they have," he said. "When the enemy attacks, they attack with mortars, with artillery [and] with heavy weapons."

Afghan police are typically given a basic AK-47 machine gun. U.S. military sources say only about a third of the existing police force has the necessary guns and communications equipment.

Plans are underway to recruit another 19,000 police officers by the end of the year and to accelerate training programs for new officers.

Last year was Afghanistan's deadliest since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taleban regime in 2001. More than 5,000 people have been killed since last January.