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6 American Soldiers Killed in Taliban Attack in Afghanistan

In one of the deadliest attacks against American forces in Afghanistan this year, a Taliban suicide bomber on a motorcycle drove into a military convoy near Bagram Air Base on Monday, killing six American soldiers, a United States official said.

The attack came as Taliban forces have continued grabbing territory across Afghanistan, dragging more American troops directly into the fight despite commanders' continued insistence that the focus of the NATO force remains on training and advising. As the battle intensified this fall, the Obama administration even reversed plans to begin withdrawing troops this year, instead choosing to leave the 9,800-American force in Afghanistan through at least 2016.

Even away from the most intense battlegrounds in southern and eastern Afghanistan, and with the Afghan forces nominally taking the lead in the fighting, American forces have remained at risk, with at least 15 killed this year before the attack on Monday.

The Taliban suicide bomber struck a joint patrol of American and Afghan troops was moving through a village near Bagram Air Base, a sprawling base north of Kabul that is manned largely by American service members and contractors, the United States official said. Another two Americans were wounded in the bombing, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Pentagon had not yet publicly confirmed that those killed on Monday were American.

Abdul Shakor Qudosi, the district governor of Bagram, which is north of Kabul, said three Afghan police officers were wounded in the attack. "The suicide bomber was riding a motorcycle and struck a joint patrol" of Afghan and American soldiers, Mr. Qudosi said.

Col. Michael T. Lawhorn, a spokesman for the NATO coalition in Afghanistan, said only that the six people killed were members of the international coalition. He added that the explosion, by a "vehicle borne" bomb that exploded around 1:30 p.m., also wounded three other people.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a Twitter message.

Before the attack on Monday, 21 members of the coalition forces had been killed in Afghanistan this year, with 15 of them Americans, according to the website iCasualties. Most of the deaths were said to be caused by aircraft crashes or indirect fire.

In recent months, however, American Special Operations forces have been drawn back onto the battlefield as Afghan forces have struggled against insurgent offensives that are threatening important population centers. United States military assistance from the air as well as on the ground was considered a crucial factor in the Afghan forces' taking back Kunduz, the first city to briefly fall to the Taliban in 14 years.

Now, as the Taliban make a major push in southern Helmand Province, overrunning districts and knocking at the gates of the provincial capital, Laskar Gah, American Special Forces have been reported on the ground again to try to keep the province from fully falling to the insurgents.

Local officials in Helmand on Monday pleaded with the national government for reinforcements, saying the district of Sangin remained largely under Taliban control after insurgents overran it on Sunday after several days of intense fighting and heavy casualties.

"Last night, NATO forces targeted two locations in Sangin, but it has not affected the Taliban momentum, and heavy fighting still continues," said Mohammad Karim Attal, head of the provincial council in Helmand.

Mr. Attal said the Taliban leadership, based across the border in Pakistan, had decided six months ago to seize Helmand and base more of the insurgent command in the province.

In addition to Sangin, heavy fighting has continued in the districts of Khanashin, falling back and forth between government and Afghan forces in recent weeks, as well as Marja, Greshk and Washir. For weeks now, Taliban have also been holed up in Babaji, a suburb of Laskar Gah.

"If the central government does not pay attention to the security situation in Helmand, the province will eventually fall," Mr. Attal said.

[Source: By Mujib Mashal and Matthew Rosenberg, The New York Times, Kabul, 21Dec15]

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War in Afghanistan & Iraq
small logoThis document has been published on 22Dec15 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.