KABUL, Afghanistan – Six NATO service members, including three Americans, were killed in Afghanistan on Monday – the deadliest day for the international force in more than two months, underscoring fears that casualties will rise as more foreign troops stream into the country.
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said he thought the rising presence of international forces was blunting the militants. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said the international force is on its way to convincing the Afghan people that it was there to protect them.
“When I sit in an area that the Taliban controlled only seven months ago and now you meet with … elders and they describe with considerable optimism the future, you sense the tide is turning,” he told ABC News about a recent trip to Helmand province, where many of the U.S. reinforcements will be sent.
Afghans also think better days are ahead, according to an opinion poll conducted last month before the suicide bombing that killed seven employees at a CIA base. About 40 percent of Afghans believe the Taliban insurgency is weaker than it was a year ago; 30 percent think it has gotten stronger and 25 percent believe the strength of the insurgency remains the same.
Nearly seven in 10 Afghans support the presence of U.S. forces and 61 percent favor the military buildup, according to the survey, the fifth commissioned by ABC, the BBC and ARD German TV since 2005. President Barack Obama announced last month that the U.S. is sending 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan, bringing the total to nearly 98,000. NATO is sending 7,000 reinforcements.
The three Americans were killed in a firefight with militants during a patrol in southern Afghanistan, the NATO command announced. That raised to at least 10 the number of U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan so far this year, according to an Associated Press tally.
A French soldier also was killed and another was seriously wounded during a joint patrol with Afghan troops in the Alasay district of Kapisa province, an area largely under insurgent control.
NATO said another service member was killed in the clash and that a sixth service member was killed by a roadside bomb in the south.
British authorities later announced the death of a British bomb disposal expert as a result of an explosion in the Musa Qaleh area of Helmand Province. It was unclear if this death was in addition to the ones already announced by NATO.