KABUL - A roadside bomb killed two U.S. service members in southern Afghanistan yesterday as the country's top NATO commander acknowledged an increased risk to foreign troops will accompany an influx of reinforcements aimed at routing the Taliban.
The deaths brought to at least 22 the number of American service members killed so far this month - compared with only 14 for the whole of January last year. A mild winter has brought no respite to the fighting, which traditionally drops off during the cold months.
The south is the Taliban heartland and is expected to be a major focus of fighting as the U.S. and NATO allies send 37,000 additional troops to turn the tide of the war.
"The end state of the mission is to protect the population and isolate the insurgency in a way where it doesn't constitute a threat to the Afghan government," Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said Friday during a visit to the western command. "This will not happen in a short period or in an easy way. It's realistic to expect an increase of risk to coalition forces."
Also yesterday, militants kidnapped a district police chief, Jamtullah Khan, and two officers on a nighttime foot patrol near the eastern border with Pakistan - the latest in a series of attacks against Afghan officials.
Gen. Khalilullah Zaiyie said reinforcements had been sent to help with the search for the three men, seized in the Shigal district of Kunar province.
Nobody has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but blamed Taliban militants who are active in the area.