American and Afghan forces stormed a mountainside compound in eastern Afghanistan before dawn on Sunday that had been used by an al-Qaeda commander, killing more than a dozen militants in a gunbattle, the US military said.

The clash comes amid a debate in the US about whether to send more forces to Afghanistan to gain control of the country or to more narrowly target terrorists taking refuge in the mountainous region that straddles eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan.

Al-Qaeda’s leadership is widely assumed to be hiding in Pakistan, though Afghan officials have said they believe foreign fighters are increasingly crossing into their country to bolster the Taliban insurgency.

This has already been the deadliest year for US forces since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. An American service member was killed by a bomb strike in western Afghanistan on Saturday, the military said.

The fighting in eastern Kunar province started overnight when the troops pushed into targeted compound in the hopes of capturing those inside, said US military spokeswoman Capt. Elizabeth Mathias. They quickly came under fire, sparking a clash in which more than 12 insurgents died, she said.

There were no casualties among the allied troops or civilians and some militants were detained, Mathias said. She did not have information on whether any al-Qaeda operatives were among those captured or killed.

Provincial government spokesman Gen. Khalilullah Zaiyi said 18 insurgents were killed in the fighting in Mano Gai district, in the Pech valley.

More In: International | News