KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — A battle in southern Afghanistan is shaping up as a major test of the government's ability to maintain security in volatile areas after foreign combat troops, like those from the Untied States, finally leave for good.
Officials say the death toll from a week of fighting between Afghan forces and hundreds of Taliban militants has risen past 100. The U.N. is calling on all parties to protect civilians who are increasingly being caught in the crossfire.
The fighting increases the urgency for Afghanistan's government to sign a security pact with the United States that would allow nearly 10,000 American forces to stay in the country for two more years. Outgoing President Hamid Karzai has said he will leave it to his successor to sign that agreement -- but the election process has been stalled by fraud allegations in this month's runoff vote.
Meanwhile, a U.S. official said an American soldier was killed in an attack by enemy forces Wednesday in southern Afghanistan.
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