NATO and Afghan forces kill 25 insurgents

KABUL, Afghanistan: NATO and Afghan forces have killed at least 25 insurgents and three of their commanders in separate operations around the country, Afghan and coalition officials said Wednesday.

The size and scope of the latest operations were an indication that the Afghan war is far from over after 11 years of conflict, even as U.S. and foreign forces begin rapidly withdrawing and handing the lead role for security to the Afghans.

Fighting is also expected to intensify as the traditional spring fighting season gets under way after the heavy snows that blanket much of northern and eastern Afghanistan starts melting.

The U.S.-led International Assistance Force has about 100,000 troops in the country, including about 66,000 from the United States. America is expected to pull out 34,000 of its troops within a year and its allies are also expected to scale back considerably. Afghan forces are to take the lead for security starting in the spring — months ahead of schedule.

An Afghan security operation on Tuesday in Mehterlam, the capital city of eastern Laghman province, killed 15 insurgents, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday. The ministry said the insurgent’s commander, identified as Qari Almas, was also killed in the raid.

Also Tuesday, joint operations by Afghan and coalition troops killed 10 insurgents in southern and eastern Afghanistan, NATO said.

The coalition said five insurgents were killed in the lawless Andar district of eastern Ghazni province, three died in an operation in eastern Logar province, and two were killed in southern Helmand province.

Both the Andar and Helmand killings were carried out by what NATO called “precision strikes,” usually a reference to an airstrike.

An Afghan official said a NATO airstrike killed a senior Taliban commander in southern Helmand province on Tuesday. Ismail Khoutak, the director of the Joint Operations Center in the region, identified the insurgent as Khan Mohammed, also known as Shamssullah. He said Mohammed commanded insurgents in the Mus-a-Qala district.

NATO confirmed in an announcement that the Taliban commander had been killed in the operation.