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Afghanistan: Apparent insider attack kills 2 and wounds 2

Sunday 11 June 2017, by siawi3


Two US troops dead, two others wounded after apparent insider attack in Afghanistan

By: Andrew de Grandpre,

June 10, 2017

Editor’s note: This story is developing and will be updated as soon as additional information is available.

WASHINGTON — Two U.S. troops were killed and two others were wounded in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, allegedly at the hands of an Afghan soldier who opened fired on them, an official there told The Associated Press.

The apparent insider attack occurred Achin, an Islamic State stronghold along the Pakistan border in Nangarhar province. A spokesman for the provincial governor told AP that the Afghan soldier was subsequently killed. The Taliban reportedly claimed responsibility, saying it had infiltrated the Afghan army unit determined to kill Americans.

U.S. military officials in Afghanistan have said nothing about the incident. The NATO command in Kabul has not issued a press release, its primary social media accounts have been idle, and spokespersons there did not immediately respond to questions from Military Times.

Members of the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment and 7th Special Forces Group have been operating in Achin, which has become the scene of worsening violence as U.S. special forces and elite Afghan commandos intensify their efforts to take out ISIS loyalists there, a group known as ISIS Khorasan or ISIS-K. Saturday’s attack comes, too, as the Trump administration debates deploying up to 5,000 additional American troops to step up such counter-terror operations and help break what senior military leaders have declared a stalemate in the 16-year war with the Taliban.

ISIS Khorasan is an affiliate of the Islamic State’s core network in Syria and Iraq. It receives tactical advice and some financial support from outside Afghanistan, but U.S. officials have said it does not appear there’s been an influx of fighters from either country.

An estimated 400 to 700 ISIS-K militants are active throughout Nangarhar and Kunar provinces, officials said in late-April after three U.S. special forces soldiers died in separate incidents there.

Army Times
Army Rangers killed in Afghanistan were possible victims of friendly fire
Hoping to flush ISIS from its stronghold in Achin, American and Afghan forces launched Operation Hamza in early March. Apart from regular ground battles, the U.S. launched a massive airstrike on an ISIS tunnel complex in mid-April. The attack left upwards of 100 militants dead.

U.S. troops remain at risk elsewhere in the country. In mid-March, three U.S soldiers were shot and wounded in another apparent insider attack at an Afghan military complex in Helmand province.

Today, approximately 8,000 U.S. troops are deployed to Afghanistan as part of two separate operations. The larger of the two, known as Resolute Support, is focused on advising and assisting Afghan security forces with the goal of enabling them to independently protect the country’s populace from a resilient Taliban. The other is a counter-terrorism mission called Freedom’s Sentinel. It comprises mostly elite special operations troops and remains focused on targeting ISIS-K and the many al-Qaida affiliates present in Afghanistan.

Military Times
As Trump weighs more troops in Afghanistan, some in Congress seek to freeze his funding
The path ahead is said to be a matter of disagreement among President Trump’s top advisers, some of whom are apprehensive about deepening America’s commitment when the outcome remains uncertain. The Pentagon supports sending more troops and having them begin to work with the Afghans in smaller units that are closer to the action.

Long-term, officials say, the objective is to set the conditions that will enable the U.S. to maintain a counter-terrorism presence in the region and prevent the sort of lawlessness that could destabilize Afghanistan’s neighbors. Both Pakistan and India possess nuclear weapons. There’s mounting concern, too, about the increasingly overt efforts by Russia and Iran to influence regional affairs.

During a news conference last month, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis indicated a decision on troop numbers was coming “very, very soon.” His top general, Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford, said that while he was encouraged by recent talks with his NATO counterparts and their “enduring commitment,” a decision hinges on the president’s takeaway from a recent summit of alliance members in Brussels.

Andrew deGrandpre is Military Times’ senior editor and Pentagon bureau chief.