Meanwhile, the Afghan defence ministry said its soldiers killed more than 10 Taliban fighters on Sunday in northern Kunduz province's Imam Sahib district.

Nato and the US have 113,000 troops in Afghanistan fighting Taliban-led fighters, who are aiming to overthrow the government of Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president.

Break suspended

On Monday, Karzai ordered parliament to suspend a winter break so that politicians can vote on new cabinet nominees, after politicians rejected over two thirds of his original candidates.

Parliament refused 17 out of 24 of his nominees on Saturday, casting Afghanistan into further political array after a UN-backed probe in October threw out nearly one third of his votes from August's presidential poll.

Karzai's decree ordered that the legislature should delay its 45-day recess until he proposes new ministers in place of those rejected by the parliamentarians at the weekend, his office said in a statement.

It ordered "the national assembly to postpone leave until the members of the cabinet are approved".

If Karzai fails to have his cabinet approved in the next few weeks he will have to head to a London conference later this month seeking extra funds from Western donors without being able to say who will control a significant chunk of them.