KABUL (Reuters) – U.S.-led troops have killed a wanted Taliban commander in an air strike in Afghanistan’s southwestern province of Badghis, U.S. and Afghan officials said on Monday.
Violence has reached its worst level in Afghanistan ever since the Taliban, ousted in a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, made a comeback in 2005 despite growing number of foreign troops.
The Taliban commander, Mullah Dastagir, along with eight other militants were killed in a raid on a village near Turkmenistan’s border on Sunday night, the officials said.
Dastagir was behind a series of attacks in Badghis, including an ambush in which 13 Afghan soldiers were killed last November, they added.
Before that ambush, Dastagir had been jailed but was released by order of President Hamid Karzai, a defense ministry official said.
The U.S. military confirmed the air strike and the casualties including Dastagir’s killing. The Taliban could not be reached for comment.
Separately, in an operation in southern Helmand province, the Afghan army killed seven Taliban insurgents, the defense ministry said.
And in the eastern province of Kunar, a roadside bomb blast killed three employees of a construction company on Monday.
The escalation of violence comes despite an increase in the number of foreign troops to more than 70,000 now, and amid a planned dispatch of some 20,000 more U.S. soldiers this year as part of the policy of the new U.S. administration which has called Afghanistan a top priority.
U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban in reprisal for sheltering al Qaeda leaders responsible for the September 11 attacks on America.
But the Taliban have managed to revive the insurgency in recent years and have carried out a series of high-profile attacks including in the capital, Kabul.