International forces in Afghanistan released new data Thursday that they claim show violence trending downward in their favor, contradicting U.N. statistics that the monthly average number of clashes and other attacks is nearly 40 percent more than last year.
NATO said it has made progress by routing the Taliban from their strongholds in the south. But the Taliban have hit back with several high-profile attacks in the capital and assassinations of government officials and senior Afghan leaders.
The U.S.-led coalition reported that insurgent attacks in the first eight months of the year were down 2 percent and that the Taliban are relying more on roadside bombs to fight the war instead of shooting at better-armed international troops.
"Actual enemy-initiated attacks are down and that is what we are observing as an indicator that actually violence trends are going down in our favor," said Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, a spokesman for the coalition.
The coalition said direct fire from insurgents dropped 30 percent in recent months. However, NATO said that roadside bomb explosions rose 5 percent during the time period.
A day earlier, the U.N. said in its quarterly report on Afghanistan that, as of the end of August, the average monthly number of incidents stood at 2,108, up 39 percent over the same period a year earlier. The figures include insurgent attacks as well as assaults by NATO and Afghan forces on Taliban figures and positions.
The U.N. envoy to Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, said there was no conflict between the different assessments.
He told reporters after a U.N. Security Council meeting Thursday that the situation in Afghanistan had improved "in a purely military way," but at the same time there has been an increase in civilian casualties.
NATO said in its briefing Thursday that coalition airstrikes killed 67 civilians from January through August, up 18 percent from the 57 in the same period last year. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has spoken out against such coalition airstrikes.
Meanwhile, violence broke out Thursday in the south and west of the country.
Three NATO service members were killed by a roadside bomb in the south. The coalition did not immediately disclose where in the south the troops were killed. A fourth NATO service member died Thursday as a result of a non-battle related injury in southern Afghanistan.
This pushes the number of international service members killed in Afghanistan this year to 448.
In the west, an Afghan policewoman and two civilians were killed by a remote-controlled bomb set up on a motorbike parked along a road leading to the airport in Herat, the capital of Herat province, said Sayd Sharif Mohammadi, the police commander for the airport.
As five Afghan policewomen in a vehicle passed the motorbike, the bomb exploded.
Mohammadi said the explosion also wounded 10 people, including the other four female police officers riding in the police vehicle, its driver and at least one child who was among five civilians near the blast.