One roadside bomb killed 10 civilians Wednesday in a van along a route used by foreign troops in eastern Afghanistan while another wounded three Australian troops — highlighting a tactic increasingly favored by Taliban militants.
The roadside bombings show the dangers that will be faced by the additional 17,000 U.S. troops President Barack Obama has pledged to send to Afghanistan this year to battle resurgent Taliban militants in the country's south.
The U.S. could end up sending even more troops to Afghanistan as part of an overhauled strategy the Obama administration is expected to announce later this week.
U.S. troops first faced widespread roadside bomb attacks in Iraq, where they caused thousands of casualties and led the military to spend billions of dollars to build armored vehicles better equipped to keep soldiers safe.
The U.S. military has transferred much of that technology to Afghanistan, but Afghan officials say well-trained militants have also migrated from Iraq, bringing with them the knowledge to carry out more deadly attacks. Also, the rural and often mountainous terrain in Afghanistan provides even more hiding places for roadside bombs than in Iraq, which is more developed.
The number of roadside bomb attacks in Afghanistan increased by 30 percent last year, according to NATO. Many of the attacks end up missing the troops being targeted and kill Afghan civilians.
Afghanistan's intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, told parliament Wednesday that the number of civilians killed by the Taliban during the last Afghan calendar year, which ended on March 20, was 40 times higher than the number killed accidentally by international or Afghan forces. He did not provide specific figures.
The civilians killed Wednesday were traveling on a road in eastern Khost province that is also used by foreign and Afghan troops, said Police Chief Abdul Qajum Bakizoy. He blamed Taliban militants for planting the bomb.
The blast killed seven people instantly, while three others died later of their wounds in the hospital, said Wazir Pacha, the provincial police spokesman. Six people were wounded in the attack, he added.
Neither of the officials knew whether the attack was targeting one of the troop convoys that regularly use the road in Saberi district. The area is known for militant activity and clashes between coalition troops and Taliban fighters.
The Australian troops that were wounded Tuesday were on patrol with Afghan soldiers in southern Uruzgan province, said the Australian Defense Department in a statement. The roadside bomb blast also wounded their interpreter, it said.
U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban government in 2001, but many of them fled south and east into Pakistan. The militants made a violent comeback over the next few years as the U.S. diverted troops and resources to fight in Iraq.
Now they lead a bloody insurgency that threatens President Hamid Karzai's rule and the entire Western project of normalizing this country, which has been embroiled in wars for the last three decades.
U.S. commanders have requested a total of 30,000 additional troops to battle the militants, especially in the insurgency's heartland in southern Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan.