Taliban Attack Afghan Road Project

Two Canadian soldiers died Saturday guarding a road project in southern Afghanistan. They were killed when Taliban fighters launched rocket-propelled grenades from nearby ground cover.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And let's go now, to the second of those dangerous places: Afghanistan. We have an update on a story from last week.

Renee Montagne is reporting from there and took us to a road being built by NATO soldiers outside Kandahar. And since we heard from Renee, two of those soldiers have been killed.

RENEE MONTAGNE: Steve, yes, two Canadian soldiers. And just to remind you, they were working on a two-mile long road that was aimed at linking isolated villagers to the outside world. Partly so the villagers wouldn't be so vulnerable to Taliban, who've poured into the area. And also, a paved road would allow soldiers to secure what has been really a battlefield over the last couple of months.

How difficult and dangerous it will be to make that road a reality was brought home just the day after our story ran. Those two dead soldiers were guarding the road when Taliban fighters launched rocket-propelled grenades from nearby foliage. It was the sort of foliage that was being cleared when we were there, on the road, to deny cover to the Taliban. After that initial attack, NATO forces sent in helicopters. It took a three-hour firefight to drive out the insurgents.

The day I spent on the road, we spoke to the commander of Canadian ground troops there, about the guerilla attacks that have now replaced the conventional battles that NATO won in September. Lieutenant Colonel Omar LaVoy(ph) was on the road - this past Saturday - when his men died.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL OMAR LAVOY (Canada Military Forces): The truth of the matter is we lost more soldiers in the non-commissionable combat phase than we have in the first phases. That's what I expect. You know, I'd be the last guy in the world to say we're in a less dangerous phase.

MONTAGNE: All of this, Steve, shows what Afghans say everyday - the developments is critical, but that it can't happen without a strong military presence. And that's something Afghanistan can't provide yet on its own.

INSKEEP: That's MORNING EDITION'S Renee Montagne speaking from Kabul, Afghanistan.

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