- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 12, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan | Six Western troops, including three Americans, were killed Monday in Afghanistan, underscoring warnings that casualties will increase as more foreign troops stream into the country and step up efforts against the Taliban.

Despite the rise in violence, support among Afghans for the presence of foreign forces has increased. A poll released Monday found that nearly seven in 10 Afghans support the presence of U.S. forces in their country, and 61 percent favor the military buildup. However, it said support for U.S. and NATO forces drops sharply in the south and east where the fighting is the most intense.

Monday was the deadliest day for the NATO-led international force in more than two months.

The Americans died in a firefight with militants during an “operational patrol” in southern Afghanistan, U.S. military spokesman Col. Wayne Shanks said. He declined to provide the exact location of the clash or their branch of service pending notification of family members.

The deaths 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 officer was killed during a joint patrol with Afghan troops in Alasay, a valley largely under insurgent control that NATO is trying to reclaim. Another French service member was seriously wounded in the attack some 50 miles northeast of Kabul. Eight French troops were in the patrol, said spokesman Col. Jacky Fouquereau.

NATO said another service member was killed in the clash but did not release the nationality. It said a sixth service member was killed by a roadside bomb in the south.

The previous deadliest day was Oct. 27 when eight U.S. troops were killed. Seven CIA agents and a Jordanian intelligence officer also were killed by a suicide bomber on Dec. 30.

Officials said earlier Monday that bombs killed another American service member and two Afghan road construction workers in separate attacks Sunday in southern Afghanistan.

The southern half of the country, the Taliban heartland, has frequently been hit by attacks as the U.S. military builds up its presence in the area. Most of the 30,000 additional American troops that President Obama has ordered to Afghanistan will be deployed there.

The poll of a national random sample of 1,534 Afghan adults was conducted from Dec. 11 to Dec. 23 by ABC News, the BBC and ARD German TV, their fifth since 2005. It found support for U.S. forces had risen to 68 percent from 63 percent in 2009.

The poll has an error margin of plus or minus three percentage points. Field work was done by the Afghan Center for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research in Kabul, a subsidiary of D3 Systems Inc. in Vienna, Va.

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