Eight US troops were killed in southern Afghanistan ahead of a run-off presidential election, the NATO-led alliance said, in the deadliest month for US forces since the start of the war eight years ago.
The mounting violence comes as US President Barack Obama is weighing whether to send more soldiers to Afghanistan to fight a Taliban insurgency that is at its fiercest since 2001.
The foreign ministers of Russia, China and India said the world must remain engaged in Afghanistan, with Moscow seeking a greater role for regional powers to restore stability and “counter terrorism and drug trafficking.”
“The timing of the statement is significant because the Americans are now reviewing their war and it’s a clear signal to the US that it cannot go it alone,” said Uday Bhaskar, director of the National Maritime Foundation thinktank in New Delhi.
Across the border in Pakistan, which Washington sees as a crucial ally, Islamabad’s troops are in the midst of a massive offensive against Taliban militants in South Waziristan.
The eight US soldiers killed in the bomb attacks in Afghanistan yesterday pushed the October death toll to 53, topping the previous high of 51 deaths in August, Pentagon officials said.
The NATO-led force said several soldiers were wounded in the attacks in the south, just a day after 11 US troops and three American civilians died in separate helicopter crashes.
The bombings also killed an Afghan civilian and wounded several service members.
No other details were available.
Efforts to stabilize Afghanistan have been complicated by weeks of political tension over an election in August marred by widespread fraud in favour of the incumbent president, Hamid Karzai, forcing a second round set for November 7.
Karzai’s camp said yesterday a run-off must take place even if his challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, quits the race.
Karzai agreed last week to a run-off under severe international pressure after a UN-led fraud investigation annulled a large chunk of his votes in the original election.
Fuelling talk he might pull out altogether, Abdullah set out a range of conditions this week. Karzai rejected the demands.
“We should not deprive the people from their right of voting and their right of citizenship,” Waheed Omar, Karzai’s chief campaign spokesman, told Reuters.
“Whether or not the president and Abdullah take part in the run-off or not should not result in depriving the people of what they want.”