U.S. combat outpost hit by Taliban twice in 2 days

KABUL, Afghanistan — U.S. forces clashed with insurgents in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, fending off a Taliban assault for the second time in as many days.

U.S. soldiers came under small arms fire early Wednesday morning as they set up a combat outpost in Kunar province, near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. An Associated Press photographer at the base said the insurgents fired from a hillside and the U.S. troops returned fire with rifles and artillery.

The roughly 30-minute battle was the second time the same unit has come under fire in less than 24 hours. Late Tuesday, it repelled a Taliban ambush and offensive using artillery and mortars in a fight that raged for nearly an hour. The outpost is said to come under attack by the Taliban as much as five times a week, at times twice daily.

NATO forces are heavily concentrated in the traditional Taliban stronghold in the south, but the insurgents have increasingly re-expanded their reach, launching attacks in the north while allied militants such as the Haqqani network in Pakistan, have launched attacks in the east.

While NATO says the coalition is making sizable gains in quelling the insurgency, continued violence and chronic instability paint a vastly different picture of the situation in Afghanistan as the war against the Taliban approaches the start of its tenth year.

The instability has turned 2010 into the deadliest year of the conflict for international forces, with 700 NATO service members killed so far. But the Afghan army has also shouldered a share of the toll.

In the latest attack on Afghan forces, a soldier was killed in a suicide attack in the eastern Paktika province on Tuesday, according to a statement released Wednesday by the office of the province's governor. The statement said that the attack in the Barmal district left two other soldiers and five civilians wounded. Additional details were not provided.