3 NATO troops die in Afghanistan as attacks surge

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Three NATO troops were killed Friday in Afghanistan in a surge of attacks that raised the death toll to 17 in three days for international troops in the country.

One service member died Friday in an insurgent attack in the east and another was killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan, an alliance statement said. It did not give nationalities or exact locations of the attacks.

France said a one of its soldiers died Friday of wounds sustained in a clash in the Uzbin Valley east of Kabul the day before.

On Thursday, eight NATO troops were killed in a spate of attacks, including four separate roadside bombings.

Improvised explosive devices on roadways are the weapon of choice for insurgents, who rely on guerrilla tactics to counter intensified NATO-Afghan operations.

It has been the deadliest year for international forces in the nine-year Afghan conflict. Troop numbers have been ramped up to turn the screws on insurgents and casualties have mounted.

The escalating toll — more than 2,020 NATO deaths since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion — has shaken the commitment of many alliance countries, with calls growing to start drawing down forces quickly.

U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, confirmed Friday that NATO has provided safe passage for senior Taliban leaders to travel to Kabul for face-to-face negotiations with the American-backed Afghan government.

Petraeus declined to provide details of the alliance’s role in the clandestine talks — discussions he described as “preliminary.” The Afghan government has previously acknowledged it has been involved in reconciliation talks with the Taliban with some NATO help.

The Taliban, however, have vehemently denied any official talks have taken place.

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