By Laura King, Los Angeles Times –
KABUL, Afghanistan — A roadside bomb killed five Polish soldiers in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, officials said, marking that country’s largest single troop loss of the 10-year-old war. The Taliban claimed responsibility.
The attack took place in the Rauza district of Ghazni province, south of the capital, Kabul, officials said. The area has seen a surge in insurgent activity this year, and Western military commanders describe it as one of the most dangerous in Afghanistan.
A provincial spokesman, Hazrat Moammad Ghaznawi, said the blast was so powerful it broke the Polish troops’ armored vehicle into several pieces. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed that seven Polish soldiers had been killed, but the group often exaggerates the effectiveness of its attacks.
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force did not release any details about the incident or disclose the nationalities of the five who were killed. Polish media quoted the country’s Defense Ministry as confirming they were Poles.
The Polish contingent in Afghanistan numbers nearly 2,600. Taliban fighters sometimes target the smaller countries in the U.S.-led coalition, hoping to drive a wedge between allies. Poland had previously announced plans to begin trimming the size of its force.
The deployment has long been controversial at home. On Wednesday, the nation’s leftist opposition renewed calls for a troop pullout or a change of focus to the mission, The Associated Press reported.
Janusz Palikot, head of the new leftist Palikot’s Movement, echoed his previous calls for an immediate pullout, while the Democratic Left Alliance said the military mission should be changed into a stabilization and development force, in order not to provoke the Taliban.