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U.S. Troops Abandon Afghan Outpost Following Attack

NATO spokesman Mark Laity
KABUL -- U.S. troops have pulled out of a remote outpost in northeastern Afghanistan, the NATO-led security force has said, three days after Taliban militants tried to overrun the base and killed nine U.S. soldiers.

NATO played down the significance of the withdrawal, but Taliban militants are sure to claim victory in driving foreign forces out of the wooded valley, close to the Pakistani border.

Taliban militants briefly breached the incomplete defenses of the newly established base in the Wanat district of Konar Province on July 13 and hours of fierce fighting ensued that killed nine U.S. soldiers and many more insurgents.

It was the biggest single loss of life for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since 2005.

"We can confirm that a temporary outpost which was established in the village of Wanat has been removed," said NATO spokesman Mark Laity. "We will continue to patrol the village along with the ANA [Afghan National Army]." Asked whether the pull-out was related to the July 13 attack, Laity played down any link.

"Such posts are established and removed when they are not serving a purpose," he said.

Seven Militants Killed

Afghan soldiers killed seven militants in clashes in the same area on July 15. The assault on the base came less than two weeks after U.S. coalition aircraft carried out air strikes close by that Afghan officials said killed about 15 civilians.

"The citizens in Wanat and northern Konar Province can be assured that ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] and ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] are going to continue with a strong presence in the area," an ISAF statement said.

Provincial officials said foreign air strikes killed nine civilians from one family in western Farah Province on July 15.

The issue of civilian casualties is undermining support for international forces' continued presence in the country.

"I am aware that nine people were killed in a foreign troops' air assault last night, but I don't know who the dead people are," the provincial police chief General Khalilullah Rahmani told Reuters, adding that an investigation team was on its way to assess the situation.

The district governor confirmed the incident and said four women, four girls and an 8-year-old boy were killed in the bombing.

Also on July 15, the Taliban kidnapped three judges in Logar Province south of Kabul, the provincial governor, Abdullah Wardak, said.