Sept. 18 will mark the first parliamentary elections in Afghanistan since 2001.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Guerrillas killed an American soldier working on a road construction project Thursday, at least the sixth American fatality in Afghanistan over the past week.
A second soldier was wounded in the attack when insurgents firing small arms and rocket-propelled grenades ambushed a convoy of U.S. military engineers in Paktika province, a military statement said. Neither soldier was identified.
Taliban and allied guerrillas have stepped up attacks in advance of Afghanistan's first parliamentary elections since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. The vote is scheduled for Sept. 18.
"This is a tragic event for all of us," said Army Brig. Gen. Jack Sterling, deputy commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. "Our engineers have been working in this area to improve the infrastructure so that Afghans living here have a better roadway system.
"It's disheartening that these militants would attack the very people that are trying to build a better life for the people of Afghanistan," he said.
The ambush took place near a construction project on a road between the towns of Sharona and Orgun, near the border with Pakistan.
Rising death toll
Insurgents have killed at least 42 U.S. soldiers this year. About 900 Afghans have died in the fighting over the same period, many of them civilians targeted by the militants.
On Tuesday, an elderly woman was shot to death in her home in a southern village and the Taliban said it had executed her for spying for the United States, a claim dismissed by local officials. The attackers captured her son and fled, a government employee.
U.S. and Afghan officials say offensive operations in eastern and southern Afghanistan are defeating the insurgency, which they insist will weaken further when Afghans elect a parliament Sept. 18.
The attacks are increasing because the Taliban and their allies are becoming desperate after failing to block Afghanistan's new constitution, presidential elections last year, and the steady buildup of an Afghan national army, Lt. Gen. Moin Faqir, the Afghan military's operations commander, said in a recent interview.
"Our enemies have become crazy now, and they want to increase their attacks because Sept. 18 is the last nail in their coffin," Faqir said.