ISLAMABAD - Taliban militants killed at least 25 people, mostly Afghan security personnel, on Monday, while villagers in Paktia province alleged that a NATO airstrike killed seven civilians on Sunday.
Also, newly elected President Ashraf Ghani’s administration said it is working on a new security strategy as international forces are readying to end their combat mission in December.
Afghan authorities said a convoy of national army and police forces was traveling through a valley in mountainous Sar-e-Pul province in the country’s north when Taliban militants attacked.
Ambush in mountains
Provincial Governor Abdul Jabar Haqbeen said 22 security personnel were killed in the ambush, while eight were wounded and seven were taken captive. Haqbeen said at least six convoy vehicles were destroyed.
In another attack claimed by the Taliban, at least one Afghan civilian was killed and three foreign troops wounded when a suicide car bomber rammed a NATO military convoy along a major road out of the Afghan capital, Kabul, early Monday.
Kabul police also reported that a bomb blast in a crowded market in Qarabagh district wounded 22 civilians, at least five of them critically. Another attack, in the eastern border province of Nangarhar, killed two people and wounded seven, the Ministry of Defense said.
Monday’s violence underscores the daunting security challenge facing Ghani’s newly elected government as U.S.-led foreign combat forces prepare to wind down their mission by the end of December.
However, under a bilateral agreement with the United States, Kabul will allow about 10,000 American soldiers to stay in the country past 2014 to assist and advise Afghan forces and continue counterterrorism operations.
Two U.S. senators, Tim Kaine and Angus King, visited Afghanistan this week to discuss security and economic issues with Ghani and his military officials.
Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, stressed that security remains a significant challenge.
Speaking to reporters in Kabul, however, he sounded confident that Afghan forces are ready to deal with the challenge, saying they are carrying out 90 percent of the nationwide security operations.
“That is a significant change. The Afghan Army is proving that it is capable and willing to take on the fight and I think that is a very important next step,” Kaine said.
Ghani seeks peace
In his inauguration speech late last month, Ghani appealed for the Taliban and other anti-government militants to come to the negotiating table to find a peaceful solution to the violence.
But the insurgents have responded by increasing attacks around the country. The Taliban denounced the security pact with Washington, calling it a sinister American plot to control Afghanistan.
In a separate incident, officials in southeastern Paktia province have alleged that a NATO airstrike on Sunday killed seven civilians.
Angry residents took to the streets to protest the killings, insisting the victims were innocent people collecting wood in the mountains when they were targeted from the air.
The international military coalition has confirmed the attack, saying those killed were armed militants. The Afghan province where the airstrike occurred is near Pakistan, where U.S. commanders have said Taliban insurgents have set up sanctuaries.