Insurgents in Afghanistan on Monday downed a U.S. helicopter near the capital of Kabul. The crew was rescued, a U.S. military spokesman said.

The helicopter was flying over Wardak Province, about 40 miles west of Kabul, when it came under small-arms fire, said a U.S. military spokesman. He declined to say how many crew members had been aboard.

Wardak has become a Taliban stronghold in recent months, which has contributed to the choking off of road traffic in and out of Kabul.

In more than seven years of fighting, only rarely have insurgents managed to down Western helicopters. Choppers are a crucial mode of transport for troops and supplies because many of Afghanistan's roads are poorly maintained and dangerous, and Western bases are scattered widely amid extremely rough terrain.

Also Monday, a suicide bomber dressed as an Afghan policeman killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded several people at a police station in northern Afghanistan, provincial officials said. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

In Pakistan, a U.S. drone aircraft hit a militant compound in South Waziristan on Sunday night, killing 20 people, including two Taliban commanders, a senior Pakistani official and a resident said.

One of the dead commanders, Eida Khan, was wanted by the Americans for his cross-border attacks from bases in Waziristan, the Pakistani official said. Another, Wahweed Ullah, worked with Arabs who were part of Al-Qaida, the resident said.

The drone launched a missile attack on a compound in the village of Manduta, close to Wana, the capital of South Waziristan, about 20 miles from the Afghanistan border.

The latest U.S. strike appears to have been the 19th by pilotless Predator aircraft in the tribal areas since the beginning of August. In the first seven months of 2008, there were five strikes.

In Iraq, a new Iraqi military offensive is under way in the northern city of Mosul, but the worry is not only the insurgents who remain strong there. U.S. commanders are increasingly concerned that Mosul could degenerate into a larger battleground over the fragile Iraqi state itself.

The central government in Baghdad has sent troops to quell the insurgency there while also aiming at what it sees as a major obstacle to both nationhood and its own power: the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the north and the Kurds' larger ambitions to expand areas under their control.