Two U.S. troops die in Afghan blast

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - KATHY GAN­NON In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Amir Shah, Mir Wais Khan, Bassem Mroue and Lolita Bal­dor of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

KABUL, Afghanistan — A sui­cide bomb­ing at­tack on a NATO con­voy in south­ern Afghanistan on Wed­nes­day left two Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers dead, a Pen­tagon spokesman said.

The an­nounce­ment of the as­sault, claimed by the Tal­iban, came de­spite re­peated re­fusals by the U.S. mil­i­tary in Afghanistan to say whether there had been any fa­tal­i­ties.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis con­firmed the ca­su­al­ties in the at­tack near Kandahar city. The Pen­tagon’s de­ci­sion to re­lease the fig­ures seemed to con­tra­dict or­ders is­sued two months ago by Army Gen. John Ni­chol­son, the top U.S. com­man­der in Afghanistan, bar­ring in­for­ma­tion about U.S. com­bat deaths un­til days af­ter the in­ci­dent.

There was no in­for­ma­tion on the num­ber of troops wounded.

U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cials in Afghanistan re­fused to give any in­for­ma­tion about ca­su­al­ties, even af­ter the Pen­tagon re­leased the ca­su­alty fig­ures.

Ni­chol­son’s or­ders sti­fling in­for­ma­tion from the U.S. mil­i­tary in Afghanistan was met with op­po­si­tion from within the Pen­tagon, where of­fi­cials re­port­edly tried to re­solve the im­passe. How­ever, the de­ci­sion by the Pen­tagon to re­lease Wed­nes­day’s ca­su­alty fig­ures would in­di­cate that the issue has gone un­re­solved two months af­ter the or­der was is­sued.

Ni­chol­son said the rea­son for the de­lay was to al­low time for no­ti­fi­ca­tion of fam­ily mem­bers. Yet it up­ends Pen­tagon prac­tice since the Viet­nam era and gives the pub­lic less in­for­ma­tion and trans­parency into a war that has raged for 16 years, re­sult­ing in thou­sands of deaths and in­juries.

The Tal­iban quickly took re­spon­si­bil­ity for Wed­nes­day’s at­tack. A spokesman for the in­sur­gents said the bomb­ing killed 15 sol­diers, but the Tal­iban rou­tinely ex­ag­ger­ate their gains and ca­su­alty fig­ures.

In their claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity, the Tal­iban also said the at­tack de­stroyed two ar­mored tanks. The in­sur­gents’ spokesman for south­ern Afghanistan, Qari Yusuf Ah­madi, said fighter Asadul­lah Kan­da­hari was the “hero” who car­ried out the at­tack with a small pickup packed with ex­plo­sives.

Kandahar province was the Tal­iban spir­i­tual heart­land and the head­quar­ters of their lead­er­ship dur­ing the five-year rule of the Tal­iban, which ended with the U.S. in­va­sion in 2001.

The ser­vice mem­bers were part of an in­ter­na­tional force re­ferred to as the Train, Ad­vise and As­sist Com­mand — South, a ref­er­ence to their lo­ca­tion in the coun­try. Five other coun­tries be­sides the United States are sta­tioned in the south — Australia, Ger­many, Bul­garia, Poland and Ro­ma­nia, said U.S. mil­i­tary spokesman in Afghanistan Lt. Damien Hor­vath.

Ghu­lam Ali, who runs a me­chan­ics shop near the at­tack site on the out­skirts of the city of Kandahar, said the in­ten­sity of the blast knocked him out.

When he came to, he said, he saw a mil­i­tary ve­hi­cle on fire on the road. He stepped out of his shop but a sud­den burst of gun­fire drove him back in­side. Then, he­li­copters ar­rived and he saw sol­diers be­ing taken away from the scene but could not de­ter­mine the ex­tent of their in­juries.

The com­bined U.S. and NATO troop con­tin­gent cur­rently in Afghanistan is about 13,500. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion is de­cid­ing whether to send about 4,000 or more U.S. troops to Afghanistan in an at­tempt to stem Tal­iban gains.

Late Wed­nes­day, NBC News re­ported that Trump has be­come in­creas­ingly frus­trated by the sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan and has re­cently floated a change in com­mand.

Trump fumed dur­ing a meet­ing last month over the coun­try’s lack of progress, NBC News re­ported. The net­work said he also pro­posed fir­ing Ni­chol­son.

Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil spokesman Michael An­ton said in a state­ment in re­sponse to the NBC story that “the pres­i­dent’s team con­tin­ues to de­velop op­tions for him that ad­dress threats and op­por­tu­ni­ties to Amer­ica aris­ing from this vi­tal re­gion.”

The at­tack in south­ern Kandahar came as thou­sands of demon­stra­tors in the western city of Herat trans­ported 31 bod­ies, the vic­tims of a sui­cide at­tack on a Shi­ite mosque a day ear­lier, to the res­i­dence of the pro­vin­cial gov­er­nor.

Protesters were an­gered by the au­dac­ity of Tues­day evening’s at­tack barely 150 feet from a po­lice sta­tion. The sui­cide bomber first sprayed gun­fire at the pri­vate guards, who were pro­tect­ing the mosque be­fore run­ning in­side, fir­ing un­til his ri­fle jammed, said wit­nesses. He then det­o­nated the ex­plo­sives strapped to his body.

The Is­lamic State af­fil­i­ate in Afghanistan took re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack, say­ing they had de­ployed two sui­cide bombers. Wit­nesses re­ported a sec­ond ex­plo­sion 10 min­utes af­ter the first bomber blew him­self up.

When the car­nage ended, 32 peo­ple were dead and 66 in­jured, pro­vin­cial gov­er­nor’s spokesman Ji­lani Farhad said.

The Is­lamic State said in a state­ment that the two men, whom it iden­ti­fied as Amir Qas­sim and Tayeb al-Kha­rasani, also used au­to­matic ri­fles in the Shi­ite mosque be­fore they det­o­nated them­selves.

Its state­ment claimed the at­tack killed nearly 50 and wounded more than 80.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.