your connection to The Boston Globe

2 soldiers die in Afghanistan

New US envoy predicts more violence is ahead

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A reinvigorated insurgency killed two US soldiers yesterday when a roadside bomb hit a military convoy protecting road workers, and the new American ambassador warned that violence by Afghan rebels would not end soon.

But the envoy, Ronald Neumann, played down fears that the Taliban-led militants could prevent next month's legislative elections. ''When millions of people want to go vote, they will go vote," he said at his first news conference after arriving in Kabul.

A surge of violence since winter has killed about 1,000 people, 59 American soldiers among them. Militants have stepped up assaults in the south and east, trying to sabotage the US-backed recovery, while US and Afghan troops answer with their own offensives.

Yesterday, a homemade bomb hit a convoy of US troops supporting crews improving a road from the southern city of Kandahar to outlying mountains. Two soldiers in an armored vehicle were killed and two were wounded, the military said in a statement.

The recent loss of life pales next to the casualties suffered in Iraq, but it has dampened some of the optimism that prevailed after Afghanistan's inaugural presidential election passed off peacefully last fall and insurgent attacks dropped off during the winter.

''There is certainly more violence, and there are violent elements trying to come back," Neumann said. ''I think this is a situation that will probably be difficult for some time."

But he said there are enough troops -- 21,000 US-led coalition soldiers and a 10,000-strong NATO-led peacekeeping force -- and Afghanistan's new police and army to safeguard the polls.

''There are people who will try to kill candidates and who will try to stop the election," Neumann said. ''They will fail. They have absolutely no chance of stopping this election."

The diplomat, who previously worked in Baghdad, drew a comparison to the run-up to the legislative elections in Iraq on Jan. 30, saying the situation there was ''10 times more violent," but the elections still went ahead.

His comments came a day after the start of the official one-month campaigning period for the Sept. 18 elections.

The surge of violence and militant threats to kill candidates and voters have discouraged political hopefuls from stumping for the election that is the next step toward democracy since the hard-line Taliban regime was ousted in late 2001 by a US-led offensive.

Despite worries about bloodshed, officials are upbeat that there won't be major disruptions.

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives