1 GI Killed In Afghanistan

USA Soldiers in Afghanistan, Map, RKF
A U.S. soldier was killed and two others wounded in a clash with suspected Taliban rebels in southeastern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Tuesday.

The clash occurred Monday near a coalition base at Shkin, in Paktika province, just a few miles from the Pakistan border, spokesman Col. Rodney Davis said from Bagram Air Base, the U.S. military headquarters in Afghanistan.

"One coalition service member died of wounds received in combat and two others were wounded as a result of fighting on Monday near Shkin," Davis said in a statement. "Coalition forces killed two enemy fighters with direct small arms fire."

No other details were immediately available. Davis said the soldiers were not engaged in Mountain Viper, an ongoing operation in the south and east of the country to root out Taliban fighters.

Taliban rebels have dramatically stepped up operations in recent months. They waged a fierce battle in late August and early September in the mountains of southern Zabul province. One American special operations soldier died when he fell during a combat operation.

U.S. and Afghan military officials say well over 100 Taliban were also killed. Still, the ability of the Taliban to organize such stiff resistance has raised concern over the power of U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai's government to bring order to his war-ravaged nation.

Suspected Taliban have also increasingly targeted Afghan government officials and international aid workers, who have been largely forced to suspend reconstruction projects in wide swaths of the country.

Afghan soldiers recently beefed up their presence in Paktika, apparently in response to increased Taliban activity.

Shkin and another coalition base to the north in Khost, both along the porous border with Pakistan, have come under near daily rocket attack, and skirmishes are also commonplace. Afghan and Western officials say they believe Taliban fighters are hiding across the border in Pakistan, then crossing over to launch attacks.

Five American soldiers have now died in Afghanistan since mid-August. Two were killed Aug. 31, also near Shkin. A week earlier another U.S. soldier died in combat in eastern Afghanistan, and the special operations soldier died in the south earlier this month.

Some 11,500 coalition troops are in the U.S.-led coalition to hunt down Taliban and remnants of the al Qaeda terror group.

By Daniel Cooney