KABUL (AP) – Bombs have killed three international troops in Afghanistan, including one American, military officials said Saturday.
Violence in this country has surged in recent months as insurgents grow bolder and the U.S. debates whether to send additional troops.
The U.S. service member died Saturday of wounds suffered in a bombing in southern Afghanistan, NATO and U.S. officials said.
Two other international soldiers were killed Friday in a bombing in the east, NATO said without specifying their nationalities.
Also Saturday, the spokesman for the provincial government in Wardak province, Shahidullah Shahid, said Afghan and international forces killed nine Taliban in a firefight there the day before.
President Barack Obama is considering a request by his commanders to send between 10,000 and 40,000 more troops to bolster the 68,000 Americans already committed to the country to curb the insurgency. The request comes as support for the conflict is declining in the United States.
Obama’s decision is further complicated by the still-undecided Afghan presidential election, which has raised doubts about whether there will be reliable, credible Afghan leadership to cement any military gains by the U.S. and its allies. Results from the disputed August vote have been delayed because of widespread allegations of fraud.
A U.N.-backed fraud investigation panel was analyzing data Saturday from an audit and recount of polling stations with suspect results. Results from about 13 percent of the country’s polling stations hang in the balance, enough to swing the result from an outright win by President Hamid Karzai to a forced runoff between the top two finishers.
Election officials have said they expect to announce final results by the end of next week.
The weeks of waiting have been dogged by accusations of wrongdoing between candidates and even within the U.N., which has advised on the vote and whose appointees dominate the fraud investigation panel.
The second-in-command at the U.N. in Afghanistan was fired this month after a dispute with his boss about how to investigate alleged fraud. The official, American Peter Galbraith, has since accused the U.N. of trying to cover up fraud to avoid a runoff vote. Kai Eide, the top U.N. envoy to Afghanistan, has denied the charges.
An Afghan election official said Saturday that the U.N. dispute is further damaging the credibility of an election already seen as marred by fraud.
“This kind of controversy will of course have an impact on the wider perception of the election inside and outside Afghanistan,” said Zekria Barakzai, a deputy chief electoral officer with the government-appointed Independent Election Commission. “It is a negative impact.”