KABUL, Afghanistan — Four U.S. service members were killed Wednesday in separate attacks in Afghanistan, NATO said, underscoring the dangers facing Americans as President Barack Obama intensifies efforts to stabilize the country in its ninth year of war.
The deaths raised to 14 the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan this year, according to an Associated Press count.
One American service member was killed in fighting with insurgents in eastern Afghanistan while another died of wounds suffered in a roadside bombing in the south. NATO said the two other American troops died in a bomb blast Wednesday, but disclosed no other information.
A French soldier was also killed and two others wounded in a roadside bomb attack Wednesday northeast of the Afghan capital of Kabul. President Nicolas Sarkozy's office said the attack hit an armored vehicle carrying the soldiers in a convoy in the Mahmud-e-Raqi region between the NATO bases of Nijrab and Bagram.
The bombing came two days after insurgents ambushed a joint patrol of French and Afghan soldiers east of Kabul, killing a French captain and a sergeant. France has lost 39 troops in Afghanistan since 2001. Obama has ordered 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan but said they would start to leave in 2011 depending on the readiness of Afghan forces.
Civilian deaths rise
War's violence claimed the lives of more than 2,400 Afghan civilians in 2009, the United Nations said Wednesday, the largest annual death toll for noncombatants since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 and a 14 percent increase over civilian deaths in 2008.
The proportion of civilian deaths attributed to Western and Afghan security forces dropped sharply in the wake of strict new rules of engagement issued over the summer by U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of Western forces in Afghanistan. The U.N. report blamed insurgents for about 70 percent of the 2,412 recorded deaths. Another 25 percent were attributed to Western or Afghan security forces, and responsibility could not be determined in the other cases, the report states.
Instructors needed: Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday he would press the international coalition to honor pledges to train the Afghan security force so foreign troops can eventually go home. Levin, D-Mich., who is visiting Afghanistan with Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., told reporters that 4,235 trainers were needed to meet a target goal to train 134,000 soldiers and 96,800 policemen by October, but there currently are only 1,574 trainers.
More NATO troops: U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis, NATO's supreme allied commander, said Wednesday that he expects the alliance to commit several thousand more troops for the war in Afghanistan after an international conference in London later this month. Stavridis said he aims to bolster the force beyond the 30,000 additional troops President Barack Obama authorized Nov. 30 and 7,000 that allies offered last month. The commitments fell short of the 40,000 increase that General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, had sought.