Southern Afghan Violence Kills 9 Police, 2 Dutch Soldiers

Militant attacks killed nine police officers Sunday in southern Afghanistan, and the Netherlands said fighting claimed the lives of two of its soldiers in the south.

Meanwhile, U.S. Brig. Gen. Joseph Votel, the deputy commanding general for operations at the American base at Bagram, said U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has not yet decided if 3,000 additional Marines will be deployed to Afghanistan. The proposal is being considered ahead of a seasonal increase in violence by militants in the spring.

"I think if they do come, I think they will probably go to the south, to the Kandahar-Helmand area," Votel said of the Marines.

Votel also said militant activity has dropped significantly near the Pakistan border because U.S. forces are placed more strategically there, and because of increased communication with Pakistan forces.

"Weather has an impact and slows things down, but right now it's about 42 percent below where it was last December and January. It has significantly dropped off," he said, citing a reduction in roadside and suicide bomb attacks, ambushes and other forms of intimidation.

The political situation in neighboring Pakistan, where violence has increased in recent months, has also "drawn attention for the insurgents," he said.

On Sunday, Taliban militants killed eight officers in an attack on a police checkpoint in Kandahar province, said Sadullah Khan, a police officer in the area.

A suicide bomber killed another policeman and wounded eight other people when he blew himself up in a housing compound in the town of Lashkar Gah in neighboring Helmand province, officials said.

Guards challenged the bomber when he tried to enter the house of a regional police commander and the man detonated his explosives, killing the policemen, said provincial police chief Mohammad Hussain Andiwal.

Also, the Netherlands' Defense Ministry said two Dutch soldiers — a 20-year-old private and a 22-year-old corporal — were killed Saturday in southern Afghanistan.

The Dutch soldiers died during a firefight with "opposing militant forces" in Uruzgan province, the Ministry said.

Another soldier wounded suffered wounds to both legs in a separate incident and was expected to survive, the ministry said.

The soldiers' families have been informed, but their names have not yet been released, the ministry said.

About 1,650 Dutch troops were deployed in Uruzgan as part of the NATO mission there. Fourteen Dutch troops have died since their mission began last year.

More than 925 Afghan policemen died in Taliban ambushes and bombings in 2007. The police are more vulnerable to militant attacks because they work in smaller groups than the Afghan army troops and are not as well-trained.