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Three U.S. Troops Killed In Eastern Afghanistan

British soldiers stand guard in Kabul. Britian's contingent has faced its heaviest losses in recent months.
KABUL (Reuters) - Three U.S. troops were killed in east Afghanistan on August 2, the U.S. military said, continuing a deadly trend after foreign forces in July suffered their worst monthly toll of the 8-year-old war.

A statement by NATO-led foreign forces said a patrol was hit by a roadside bomb and then attacked by unidentified insurgents with small-arms fire. The three troops were killed during the engagement, NATO said.

U.S. military spokeswoman Lieutenant Commander Christine Sidenstricker identified the dead service members as American. There was no indication what branch of the military they belonged to and no other details were immediately available.

Another three U.S. soldiers were killed on August 1 in the volatile south, and a French soldier was killed in the east the same day.

Thousands of U.S. Marines and British troops launched major new offensives in southern Helmand Province at the start of last month.

Helmand has long been a Taliban stronghold and the center of Afghanistan's opium production, which funds the insurgency.

July was the deadliest month of the war for foreign forces in Afghanistan, with at least 71 killed. A total of 41 U.S. troops were killed, well above the previous monthly high of 26 in September 2008.

Britain also suffered its worst battlefield losses in almost a generation, with 22 killed in July.

Military commanders had warned of heavy casualties ahead of the Helmand offensives, the first under U.S. President Barack Obama's new regional strategy to defeat the Taliban and its militant Islamist allies and stabilize Afghanistan.

Attacks across Afghanistan this year had already reached their worst level since the Taliban was toppled by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001 and escalated further after the Helmand operations began last month.

Violence has spread out of traditional Taliban strongholds in the south and east to other areas.

Meanwhile, the Taliban has vowed to disrupt the August 20 presidential election.

The election is seen by observers as a test of Obama's new strategy, as well as Kabul's ability to stage a legitimate and credible poll.