Wed, Jan 13, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Five NATO troops killed during patrols in Afghanistan

AP , KABUL

Five NATO service members were killed in Afghanistan on Monday, underscoring fears that casualties will rise as more foreign troops stream into the country.

Nevertheless, a new poll says Afghans are more optimistic than a year ago and think the Taliban are losing momentum.

The top US commander in Afghanistan said he believed the rising presence of international forces was blunting the militants. General Stanley McChrystal said the international force is on its way to convincing the people that it was there to protect them.

“When I sit in an area that the Taliban controlled only seven months ago and now you meet with ... elders and they describe with considerable optimism the future, you sense the tide is turning,” he told ABC News about a recent trip to Helmand Province.

Afghans also think better days are ahead, according to a poll conducted last month before the suicide bombing that killed seven employees at a CIA base. About 40 percent of Afghans believe the Taliban insurgency is weaker than it was a year ago; 30 percent think it has gotten stronger and 25 percent believe the strength of the insurgency remains the same.

Nearly seven in 10 Afghans support the presence of US forces and 61 percent favor the military buildup, the survey found.

The survey was the fifth commissioned by ABC, the BBC and ARD German TV since 2005.

The results suggest that most Afghans neither support the Taliban nor share the concerns in the West about the legitimacy of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s re-election. They also underscore the ambivalence of the public about the foreign forces, which are still held in low regard.

While Afghans support the presence of foreign forces, the overall image of the US and NATO remains weak, the poll found. Fifty-nine percent of the Afghans surveyed rated the work of the US and NATO as either poor or fair; 38 percent rated the US effort as good or excellent; and 3 percent had no opinion. NATO forces had slightly better marks: 62 percent rated NATO fair or poor; 35 percent rated the alliance’s work good and excellent; and 4 percent had no opinion.

Three Americans were killed in a firefight with militants during a patrol in southern Afghanistan, the NATO command said. A French soldier also was killed and another was seriously wounded during a joint patrol with Afghan troops on Monday.

NATO also said a missile fired from an unmanned aerial vehicle killed 13 insurgents yesterday.

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