KABUL — Three American soldiers died in a complex militant ambush in eastern Afghanistan today, raising the week end toll on American troops to six, and upping NATO’s two-day August death toll to nine.
Militants in eastern Afghanistan killed the three U.S. troops with gunfire after attacking their convoy with a roadside bomb, the U.S. military said.
The deaths Sunday brought to nine the number of NATO troops killed this month, after six NATO troops died on Saturday.
July was the deadliest month for international troops since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban government for sheltering al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, with 74 foreign troops, including 43 Americans, killed.
A record 62,000 U.S. troops are now in Afghanistan, more than double the number a year ago. President Barack Obama has increased the U.S. focus on Afghanistan as the Pentagon begins pulling troops out of Iraq. Other NATO countries have about 39,000 troops in Afghanistan.
“We have a lot more troops in country. We have a lot more operations ongoing, and it increases our contact with the enemy, and that unfortunately results in an increase in casualties,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker, a U.S. military spokeswoman.
Sidenstricker said she could release no more details about Sunday’s attack, including the province in eastern Afghanistan in which it occurred. Military officials still had to inform family members of the deaths, she said.
The U.N.’s representative in Afghanistan, meanwhile, called for peace talks with the Taliban’s top leadership, saying deals with local militant commanders as proposed by Britain’s foreign secretary would not be enough to end the violence.
While the need for talks with the Taliban is recognized across the international community, the conditions attached to such proposals — and the timing of the talks — are a bone of contention.
President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly called for talks with Taliban leaders on condition that the militants accept Afghanistan’s constitution and renounce violence. Karzai has even personally guaranteed safe passage for Taliban leader Mullah Omar if he attends such talks.
Omar, who is believed to be hiding in Pakistan, has publicly dismissed the overtures, calling Karzai an American puppet and saying no talks can happen while foreign troops are in the country.