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Afghanistan outpost emptied

KABUL, Afghanistan — After suffering significant setbacks in the fight against insurgents in eastern Afghanistan, U.S. and Afghan troops have pulled out of a combat outpost where nine American soldiers were killed in a pitched battle with Taliban fighters Sunday.

U.S. and Afghan soldiers withdrew from the makeshift outpost near the remote village of Wanat as Taliban fighters swarmed the area near the border of the eastern provinces of Nuristan and Kunar, NATO and Afghan officials said Wednesday. An unspecified number of NATO and Afghan troops remain in the region near the edge of Pakistan's western border, said Capt. Mike Finney, a spokesman for NATO's mission in Afghanistan.

The combat outpost in Wanat had been operational for only two or three days before Taliban insurgents launched an assault on it Sunday, NATO officials said.

In the wake of the outpost's evacuation, Afghan authorities said the area was overrun by Taliban fighters and that Afghan police had fled.

"The area was too dangerous for police, so they spread outward to nearby villages, or went away into the neighboring province," said Omar Sameh, a spokesman for the provincial government of Nuristan.

However, another provincial spokesman told the Associated Press that police reinforcements had arrived and that Afghan authorities had regained control of the village.

"We aren't abandoning the area. Far from it," Finney said. "The Taliban have dispersed, and we're hunting them down to make sure they don't do something like this again."

Forces should shift soon

Pentagon leaders signaled a surge in U.S. forces in Afghanistan "sooner rather than later" Wednesday. The shift could send some units there within weeks, as officials prepare to cut troop levels in Iraq. Military leaders believe smaller units such as aviation, engineering and surveillance troops can be moved more swiftly than brigade-sized units.

Associated Press

>>Fast facts

Afghanistan outpost emptied 07/16/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 1, 2010 4:12pm]
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