Suicide bomber attacks military convoy near Kabul


KABUL – A suicide car bomber attempting to strike an international military convoy on the outskirts of Kabul wounded at least 24 people Friday, including nine NATO service members, on a road that has become a frequent target.

With violence increasing, Britain's prime minister suggested 5,000 more NATO troops could be deployed to bolster the 71,000 NATO troops already here, while Germany said it would be sending more than 100 extra soldiers to northern Afghanistan in January.

NATO's top commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has asked for an extra 40,000 U.S. troops to be sent to Afghanistan, but President Barack Obama has not made a decision yet.

NATO said Friday's bombing occurred on the Jalalabad road, which is used extensively by international forces and is frequently attacked. In August, another suicide bomber targeted a NATO convoy there, killing at least eight people.

The alliance said nine international service members and 10 civilian contractors, as well as several Afghans, were wounded in Friday's attack, which occurred near a logistics base for U.S. forces. The Interior Ministry said five civilians had been wounded.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid sent The Associated Press a message saying the bombing was carried out by one of its militants.

Nabi, a taxi driver, said he was driving down the road when he heard a big bang and everything went dark.

"I just managed to take myself out of the area. I don't know what happened then, but the attack was on the foreigners," said Nabi, who like many Afghans uses one name.

Lt. Col. Todd Vician, a spokesman for NATO, said the bombing was "another attack by insurgents that injured the people of Afghanistan and our personnel who are partnering with the Afghan security forces to bring better development, governance and security to Afghanistan."

"This attack will not deter us from continuing our important mission," he said.

Obama has not yet made a decision on sending more troops — a delay that has found an echo in Europe, where countries with forces in the country are weighing whether to send help or bow to public demands for a speedy exit.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday that allied nations have privately pledged more help, but he stopped short of saying that countries would send more troops.

On Friday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown indicated he believed he could secure commitments for 5,000 more NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Speaking during an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp., Brown said Washington and London need the 43 other nations involved in NATO's International Security Assistance Force to help share the burden.

With 9,000 of its troops in the country, Britain is the second-largest contributor to the international coalition after the United States. But with rising casualties — 232 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001 — the war is increasingly unpopular at home. Families and military commanders have blamed deaths on a lack of equipment, and there has been growing criticism that Brown has failed to show tangible benefits of the mission.

In his interview, Brown defended the military campaign, but acknowledged that Britain needed to "adjust our approach" amid rising casualties.

Germany said Friday that it would send up to 120 extra troops to Afghanistan in January.

Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said during a visit to his country's troops in Afghanistan that the quick-reaction force soldiers would be deployed in the northern province of Kunduz, where most of Germany's 4,365 troops are stationed.