KABUL, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers backed by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have eliminated a Taliban commander and detained three others during a cleanup operation against Taliban militants in Wardak province, 40 km west of the capital city of Kabul.
Three other suspected militants had been arrested by the joint force, the spokesman said, adding, "An assault rifle and a pistol were also seized from their possession."
Afghan and NATO forces have killed 18 militants in the northern province of Kunduz, where Taliban rebels are expanding their activities, an Afghan army officer said Sunday.
The militants were killed on Saturday after trying to ambush a patrol of Afghan forces and troops from NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the Archi district of the province, said Colonel Abdul Wakeel Ihsas.
After the attempted ambush, a gun battle began and air support was called in, he told reporters.
"Eighteen Taliban were killed. Nineteen were wounded," he said. The dead included five rebel commanders and four foreign militants linked to Al-Qaeda, he added.
There was no immediate comment from ISAF.
Afghanistan's Taliban-led insurgency has lasted more than eight years, since the Islamists were ousted in a US-led invasion in late 2001.
NATO and the United States have 113,000 troops in Afghanistan fighting the insurgents, who have spread their footprint over the previously peaceful north and east, inflicting record Western military casualties.
In the past year, Taliban activity in the north has focused on a supply route for materiel brought by truck from bordering Central Asian countries.
Up to 40,000 more US and NATO troops are to arrive over the course of 2010, backed by thousands of civilians, as the war strategy turns from battleground tactics to development and aid.
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