SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan -- Guerrillas from the ousted Taliban regime killed at least 12 government soldiers in southern Afghanistan yesterday in a sharp escalation of violence ahead of the landmark presidential election this month.
At least seven more soldiers were killed in other clashes in the southern province of Zabul on Tuesday and Wednesday, provincial officials said.
They said some Taliban members also were killed, but no details were available.
The governor did not elaborate on the fighting in Zabul, scene of repeated attacks by the Taliban over the past three days.
On Wednesday, guerrillas attacked a joint convoy of US and Afghan forces. The Taliban said several US soldiers were killed, but there has been no independent verification.
Zabul is near the border with Pakistan and is part of the main bastion of the Taliban. The guerrillas have pledged to derail the Oct. 9 election, in which 17 candidates are standing against incumbent President Hamid Karzai.
Taliban spokesman Hamid Agha told the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press agency that the militia was responsible for a rocket attack Wednesday on a German peacekeeping base in the northern city of Kunduz. Four foreign soldiers were wounded, one seriously.
''All people and forces helping America will come under attack from us," Agha said. The NATO-led peacekeeping force, deployed mainly in Kabul, is investigating the attack.
The Taliban are so nonexistent that they even have a spokesman.
Unfortunately for Bush and for American soldiers, what's nonexistent is Bush's capacity to deal with reality as it occurs, not the version of it spoon-fed to him by his desperately disappointed stage managers Karl Rove and Karen Hughes.