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NATO forces abandon Afghan outpost

  • Story Highlights
  • NATO-led forces abandon Afghan outpost where nine U.S. soldiers killed last week
  • Security forces to perform regular patrols near village of Wanat, coalition says
  • Insurgents attempted to overrun coalition outpost in attack on Sunday
  • Number of U.S., allied troop deaths in Afghanistan this month stands at 20
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(CNN) -- NATO-led forces have abandoned an outpost in eastern Afghanistan where nine U.S. soldiers were killed and 15 more injured repelling a fierce assault by Taliban militants last week.

Masked Taliban militants pose at a defensive position at an undisclosed location in Ghazni province.

Masked Taliban militants pose at a defensive position at an undisclosed location in Ghazni province.

A NATO spokesman had described the defense of the outpost near the village of Wanat in Kunar province as "heroic."

Up to 200 militants were reported to have been involved in the attack, over-running a small U.S.-led observation point where most of the fatalities are believed to have occurred but failing to breach the main base. Afghan sources said up to 100 militants were killed in the fighting.

A spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force said Wednesday that ISAF troops and Afghan National Security Forces would "continue to perform regular patrols near the village of Wanat."

"The citizens in Wanat and northern Kunar province can be assured that ISAF and ANSF are going to continue with a strong presence in the area,'" said spokesman Capt. Mike Finney said.

"We are committed, now more than ever, to establishing a secure environment that will allow even greater opportunities for development and a stronger Afghan governmental influence."

A source with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed that the outpost is abandoned and no troops are there. However, patrols are being deployed in the area, the source said.

Wanat is to some extent controlled by insurgents, who scatter when patrols come through the area, the source said.

But coalition-led and NATO troops know that the militants are there and are aware that they go back to controlling things when the patrols leave, the source added.

There have been occasional strikes on coalition bases in recent months. In the Sunday incident, insurgents overran a military observation point just outside a coalition outpost, but failed to take the base.

Sunday's fighting marked the most fatalities in an attack on U.S. troops in Afghanistan in three years, underscoring the escalating conflict in which, since May, U.S. and coalition troop deaths have exceeded those occurring in Iraq.

Another NATO-led base in southeastern Afghanistan came under rocket attack Tuesday from militants in Pakistan, ISAF said.

The incident took place at Task Force Currahee in Paktika province. Troops at the base responded with attack helicopters and artillery. The task force and the Pakistani military coordinated their operations, and Pakistan said it would help search the region if the firing continued.

A soldier from the NATO-led force died Wednesday from "non-combat related causes," according to the ISAF. The death occurred in Parvan province, north of Kabul. The nationality of the soldier was not available.

The number of U.S. and allied troop deaths in Afghanistan this month stands at 20, and most were killed in combat.

Meanwhile several militants were killed Tuesday in southern Afghanistan in clashes with Afghan security forces backed by coalition soldiers, ISAF said.

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The incident took place in the Shah Wali District of Kandahar province where Afghan forces were "engaged by militants with small-arms fire and mortars from multiple directions," the coalition said.

The troops "returned fire and forced the militants into fortified positions where they were killed by precision air strikes. Coalition aircraft also destroyed an enemy truck and fighting position."

CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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