Kabul: At least 138 suspected insurgents have been killed in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, as Afghan troops battled the Taliban with NATO air support, according to official sources. Seven Afghan soldiers also died in the clashes with the militants, media reported Tuesday, citing the official sources.
The victims died in airstrikes by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)and ground operations by the Afghan security forces carried out Monday in the Dangam district of Kunar province, said army spokesman Haroon Yousofzai, who added that 108 people were also wounded in the fighting.
The spokesman said that 17 of the dead Taliban fighters wore Pakistani Army uniforms. The offensive was launched ten days earlier by some 1,200 Afghan and Pakistani jihadis targeting security checkpoints in remote areas of the district that lies on the border with Pakistan, said Yousofzai.
The militants destroyed sections of road or blocked them with boulders, as well as setting off explosions to trigger landslides after establishing a coordination centre in the town of Shank, where hundreds of rebels had gathered when the aerial bombing took place.
In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid insisted that the insurgents suffered no casualties and were determined to establish a foothold in the area, while the Afghan troops suffered numerous losses.
On Tuesday, the commander of Afghanistan's ground forces, Murad Ali, told the Afghan Senate that the military's biggest problem was the lack of air cover, stressing that ground forces would suffer if they did not have the international coalition to fall back on.
Ali said that the international community must fulfil its commitments towards the Afghan security forces. The US has said that it will maintain about 10,800 soldiers in the country until 2024 and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) will provide 3,000 to 4,000 troops that would be given a new role of providing training, advice and assistance to the Afghan National Security Forces.