Roadside bomb kills 10 members of Afghan family

KABUL (Reuters) - A roadside bomb killed 10 members of one family, including three women and two children, in southeastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, officials said.

Halim Fidai, governor of Khost province where the incident took place, said the family was on their way to a neighboring province when their vehicle struck the device planted on the main road.

Some 18 civilians were wounded in a similar incident in northern Balkh province, said Adil Shah Adil, provincial police chief spokesman.

Although there is a winter lull in fighting due to heavy snowfall in the mountains, when militants use colder months to rest and regroup ahead of annual spring offensive, roadside bombs continue to be deployed across parts of the country.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham visited Kabul on Monday after U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad renewed talks with the Taliban this month on steps that could lead to a ceasefire and a settlement of the 18-year-long war.

Graham said that U.S. troops abandoning Afghanistan would be a “strategic mistake”, despite the recognition that numbers could be cut.

“To reduce our forces this coming year is possible. The Afghan security forces are getting more capable and as they achieve capability, the number of U.S. forces necessary can go down,” Graham told a news conference in Kabul.

U.S. officials have said U.S. forces in Afghanistan could drop to 8,600 and still carry out an offensive, counter-terrorism mission as well as advising Afghan security forces.

There are currently about 13,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan as well as thousands of other NATO troops.

Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians, security forces and 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in conflicts since austere Taliban rule toppled in late 2001.

At least 3,812 civilians were killed and wounded in the first half of this year in violent incidents across the country, the United Nations said.

Reporting by Ahmad Sultan in Khost and Matin Sahak in Balkh; Writing by Abdul Qadir Sediqi; Editing by Hamid Shalizi and Alison Williams