By Joshua Partlow and Javed Hamdard
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, July 24, 2010; 9:52 PM
KABUL -- Two U.S. service members went missing after driving off their base in Kabul on Friday, and the Taliban later claimed to have captured them in eastern Afghanistan, NATO officials said Saturday, the same day five U.S. troops were killed in the south.
Coalition forces launched a manhunt by ground and air for the two missing troops but did not immediately release information about their identities or what is known of their whereabouts. The Associated Press reported that the two were Navy personnel, citing a NATO official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
"Every available asset is being brought to bear" to find them, said Lt. Col. Joseph T. Breasseale, a NATO spokesman in Kabul.
Afghan officials in Logar province, which borders Kabul to the south, said the two service members were driving an armored sport-utility vehicle when they were captured in Matinai, a village in the Charkh district. A spokesman for Logar's governor, Din Mohammad Darwish, said the area is "totally under control of the enemy."
A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, called Afghan reporters in Logar on Saturday and told them that the militant movement had captured the two Americans and killed one of them, according to an Afghan reporter and the governor's spokesman. NATO officials said they could not confirm the statements of the Afghan officials or the Taliban.
The announcement of the two service members' disappearance came on a difficult day for NATO forces, as five U.S. troops were killed in bomb attacks in southern Afghanistan, the volatile region where the Taliban is strongest. Four of the troops died in one bomb blast, and one died in a separate attack, NATO officials said.
The deaths pushed NATO's death toll in July to 75 troops, including 56 Americans. Last month was the deadliest of the war for NATO troops, with more than 100 killed.
President Obama has sent 30,000 new U.S. troops to Afghanistan, and commanders attribute the growing violence to the push into Taliban strongholds where the coalition previously had a minimal presence. Others say that the Taliban has grown stronger by the year and that it now controls wide swaths of the country.
Kidnappings of U.S. troops in Afghanistan are rare. One American soldier, Spec. Bowe Bergdahl, from Idaho, has been held captive since June 2009.