A Taliban suicide bomber drove into a convoy of U.S., NATO and Afghan forces on Monday. After driving into the convoy, the bomber blew himself up killing six Americans, a strong sign of deteriorating security in an area where Western forces are trying to help locals overtake the Taliban. Hours after the attack, Taliban leaders posted a message on Twitter taking responsibility for the attack, which is suspected of targeting a security patrol outside Bagram Airfield. Two additional Americans and an interpreter were injured. Monday’s attack came days after the Pentagon reported that efforts to train and conduct counter-terrorism operations with Afghan forces had grown tougher, with insurgent attacks and casualties on the rise.
An attack near Bagram Airfield in September killed one NATO service member.Two Americans died in an August ambush on a checkpoint near Camp Antonik in Helmand province. The Taliban are on the offensive in other parts of Afghanistan. In October, they seized two districts in Badakhshan Province. The success of the militants has put the US strategy for Afghanistan under scrutiny. Washington withdrew most of its troops and has sought to keep those remaining in training and support roles, trusting national security forces with fighting the insurgents on the ground. Army Brig. General William Shoffner, head of public affairs at NATO’s Resolute base in Kabul issued a statement sending his condolences.
Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the families and friends of those affected in this tragic incident, especially during this holiday season.”
It was the deadliest attack on foreign troops in four months. On Aug. 22, three American contractors with the RS base were killed in a suicide attack in Kabul. On Aug. 7 and 8, Kabul was the scene of three insurgent attacks within 24 hours that left at least 35 people dead. One of the attacks, on a U.S. special operations forces base outside Kabul, killed one U.S soldier and eight Afghan civilian contractors. Although the combat mission ended last year, around 9,800 U.S. troops and almost 4,000 NATO forces remain in Afghanistan. They have a mandate to “train, assist and advise” their Afghan counterparts, who are now effectively fighting a battle-hardened Taliban alone.
Monday’s attack came as Taliban fighters and government forces battled for control of a strategic district in the southern province of Helmand after it was overrun by insurgents, delivering a serious blow to the government’s thinly spread and exhausted forces. Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said Afghan Army commandoes and Special Forces had arrived in Sangin to push a counter-offensive. He told reporters the Afghan air force had conducted 160 combat and transport flights over Sangin in the past 48 hours.