Latest skirmishes a test for the
new Afghan National Army

The fighting began on Monday in Arghistan, some 70 kilometres southeast of the main southern city of Kandahar, corps commander Khan Muhammad told reporters.
 
However, Afghan Army commanders would not give information about their casualties.

Mohammad said government forces had been unable to cope with the initial attack and requested support from Kandahar.

After the arrival of dozens of truckloads of soldiers to the district, six Taliban fighters and their commander, Mullah Mohammad Rasool Akhund were killed, added regional commander Nanikako.

Four Taliban were also taken prisoner and are being held at army headquarters, he said.

No US troops were involved in the skirmish, but the attack comes as the 11,500-strong US force steps up its operations in the southeast.

US campaign

US forces arrested 21 people in the latest operation against Taliban fighters in eastern Afghanistan, the US military said on Wednesday.

The arrests were made on Monday and Tuesday in the Shah-e-Kot Valley, in the eastern province of Paktia, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Lefforge said in a statement from Bagram Air Base.

Several hundred American troops participated in the mission, which was supported UH-60 Blackhawks, CH-47 Chinooks and AH-64 Apache helicopters. Over 800 people were searched, Lefforge said.

Troops mounted the operation to “deny anti-coalition members' sanctuary, and prevent further attacks against non-governmental organisations, coalition forces and equipment,'' the statement said.
 
The Shah-e-Kot Valley was the location of the last major battle between US and al-Qaeda fighters in March 2002, but Taliban numbers have increased since spring when mountain passes reopened.