Foreign soldier killed in southern Afghanistan: NATO

NATO said Thursday that a foreign soldier had been killed in a Taliban-style bomb attack in southern Afghanistan, where the fight to quell the insurgency is at its fiercest.

The death brings to 542 the number of foreign soldiers to die in the Afghan war so far this year, according to an AFP tally based on that kept by the website. The 2009 toll was 521.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement the soldier died on Thursday “following an improvised explosive device attack,” a reference to the Taliban-style bombs that kill most foreign troops.

NATO and the United States have more than 152,000 soldiers in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban-led insurgency, which has intensified to its most virulent since the Islamists’ regime was overthrown in late 2001.

The nationality of the soldier was not revealed, according to policy. The US military dominates the international presence in Afghanistan, especially in the south where the war is concentrated.

Commander of the foreign forces, US General David Petraeus, said a combined Afghan-coalition force of around 7,000 troops was involved in a new push against the Taliban in the southern city of Kandahar and its surrounds.

Operation Dragon Strike aimed to exert “substantial additional pressure” on the insurgents, Petraeus told AFP this week.

It is the latest phase of Operation Hamkari, concentrating on Kandahar and the surrounding areas of Zhari, Panjawyi and Arghandab, which he said had been safe havens for the Taliban for over five years.