Six Soldiers Die in Insurgent Attack in Afghanistan

Six foreign soldiers were killed Sunday following an attack by insurgents in Afghanistan's Taliban-hit south, NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement.

The coalition force would not give further details of the incident, one of the deadliest single attacks in recent months, and would not reveal the soldiers' nationalities, in line with its policy.

The attack took to 692 the number of foreign soldiers killed so far in 2010, according to an AFP tally based on one kept by

It is by far the bloodiest year in the nine-year war for the alliance, which lost 521 service members in Afghanistan in 2009.

The largely Pashtun south of the country is the Taliban's heartland where 15 civilians, including children, were killed Saturday in a roadside bomb -- the insurgents' cheaply-made weapon of choice that claims most lives in the war.

The Taliban have been waging an increasingly deadly insurgency after they were ousted from government in 2001 by a U.S.-led invasion, with the south and east of the war-torn country suffering the brunt of the violence.

Sunday's attack was the worst since November 29, when six American police training soldiers were killed by one of their Afghan students in eastern Nangarhar province.

The latest bloodshed comes just days before the White House publishes an assessment of U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan amid claims of some battlefield success but dwindling support at home for the bloody and long war.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates signaled strong support for the current strategy during a visit to Afghanistan last week, saying he was "convinced" it was paying off, a year after President Barack Obama ordered in a surge of 30,000 troops.

"The bottom line is that in the last 12 months, we've come a long way, making progress that even just in the last few months has exceeded my expectations," said Gates.

The approach is aimed at pushing back the Taliban from towns in the south and east while building up Afghan forces and local governments, but critics say it is not working as the Taliban are extending their footprint across the country.

Last week NATO said it would battle hard through the bitter Afghan winter, which usually signals a lull in fighting, keeping up pressure on the insurgency until spring.

U.S. military leaders back the government's plan for Afghan police and army to assume responsibility for security by 2014, with the timetable agreed at a major NATO summit in Lisbon last month.