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7 killed in Afghanistan as Dempsey arrives

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan: Six foreigners and an Afghan were killed in two separate attacks in Afghanistan yesterday, local and international officials said.
Six people, including three NATO soldiers, died in a car bomb attack on a convoy of vehicles in Zabul province’s capital, Qalat. Provincial governor Mohammad Ashraf Nasery, traveling in the convoy, was unharmed but a local doctor was killed, as were three American soldiers and two foreign civilians, according to local and NATO officials.
The cars were en route to a school and were near to a hospital and a NATO base when the car bomb exploded.
Five Afghans, including a student and two reporters, were also wounded, a local official said.
In a separate attack in Afghanistan’s east, a US civilian working with the American government was killed during an insurgent attack, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement.
Zabul shares borders with Pakistan to the southeast and the birthplace of the Taleban, Kandahar province, to the south.
The Taleban claimed responsibility for the Zabul attack via a text message from spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi. He said a car bomb killed seven foreigners and wounded five others, though he later revised the toll to 13 foreigners killed and nine wounded.
The Taleban routinely exaggerate casualty figures.
The killings come in the wake of a bloody Taleban assault in the country’s west several days ago that killed 44 people. The United Nations says civilians are being increasingly targeted in 2013.
Top US military officer General Martin Dempsey arrived in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit yesterday to assess the level of training the US will need to provide Afghan forces after NATO withdraws in 2014, an official said.
An estimated 100,000 foreign troops have been fighting the Taleban for the past 11 years and are due to leave Afghanistan by Dec. 31, 2014 to be replaced by a smaller contingent to train and advise their local counterparts.
General Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will “assess the level of training that US/ISAF will provide to Afghan security forces,” a military official said.
Afghan security forces, numbering around 330,000, are widely seen as ill equipped, under-trained, and even corrupt. Lots of Afghans fear they will fail to contain the growing insurgency once the international troops leave.

The US army still has 68,000 troops on the ground in April 2013. Speculations on the size of its force post-2014 range from 6000 to 20,000 soldiers.
Last August, insurgents’ rockets hit General Dempsey’s plane as it was parked at the Bagram air field and wounded two maintenance crew, according to officials. Dempsey flew out of the country unharmed using another plane.