- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2006

11:57 a.m.

KABUL, Afghanistan — An estimated 70 to 80 Taliban militants were killed by NATO soldiers in fighting in southern Afghanistan after police told military authorities where insurgents had gathered, an official said today.

NATO soldiers suffered no casualties in the fighting in Helmand province, which lasted into early yesterday, said Maj. Luke Knittig, the spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.

The battle was in a remote location, and there was no way to independently confirm NATO’s casualty figures, provided by the commander on the ground.

“He had a pretty good idea of what he was up against and a pretty good idea of what effect he had on them,” Maj. Knittig said.

The fighting was in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province but outside the town of Musa Qala, where British troops pulled out in October after an agreement with tribal elders that they would keep Taliban fighters out of town, Maj. Knittig said.

“The elders, as I understand it, have extraordinary influence, but that influence doesn’t spread across the whole district, just mostly in the town,” Maj. Knittig said. “If anything, the deal in Musa Qala has freed up more of our troops to conduct the kind of reconnaissance patrol that was so effective in this engagement.”

Afghan security forces had told NATO that insurgents increased their activity the last couple weeks in the area between the Musa Qala and Nawzad districts, Maj. Knittig said. About 100 to 150 Danish soldiers, along with Afghan forces, fought against the insurgents using attack helicopters and jet fighters, he said.

Meanwhile, a U.S. government report has found that the American-trained police force in Afghanistan is incapable of carrying out routine law enforcement duties.

The joint report by the Pentagon and the State Department has been circulated to members of relevant congressional committees, the New York Times reported.

Managers of the $1.1 billion training program cannot say how many officers actually are on duty or where thousands of trucks and other equipment issued to the police force are now, said the report, issued by the inspector generals’ offices at the Pentagon and the State Department.

The report said no effective field-training program had been established in Afghanistan.

Zemeri Bashary, spokesman for Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry, which runs the police, said the ministry is satisfied with the training programs but that Afghan police would perform better if given better equipment and weapons.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman declined comment on the report.

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