A NATO soldier was killed and six others, including a translator, were wounded when a suicide bomber attacked their patrol Thursday in eastern Afghanistan, marking the second incident in just as many days when insurgent attacks have killed Western troops.
The U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan provided few details about the attack and did not release the nationality of the dead soldier. Navy Capt. Bill Salvin, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said in an email that the bombing occurred in Kabul province’s Qarabagh district and that the casualties’ “nationalities will be confirmed once we complete our notification procedures.”
News reports indicated that the ambushed convoy belonged to the U.S. military and it was hit by a Taliban suicide bomber. Qarabagh district is just south of Bagram airfield, the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan. American and NATO troops frequently patrol around the sprawling facility to ensure its perimeter and flight approaches are secure. In December 2015, six Americans were killed by a suicide bomber outside of Bagram during one such mission.
On Wednesday, a suicide bomber attacked a convoy in Kandahar province, killing two U.S. soldiers and wounding four others, bringing the total of Americans killed by hostile fire to nine for 2017. In 2016, 10 U.S. troops died from enemy fire. And since the United States invaded in 2001, more than 2,000 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan.
The recent attacks come as President Trump weighs sending an additional 4,000 U.S. troops into the country. The majority of the attacks, however, are aimed at Afghan security forces. Last week, 40 Afghan soldiers died in a single insurgent operation in Kandahar. More than 2,000 Afghan soldiers have died and upward of 4,000 have been wounded since the beginning of the year.
There are about 8,500 U.S. troops split between advising the Afghan military and conducting counterterrorism missions against such groups as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. There are also approximately 5,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan who are supporting the struggling Afghan forces.
On Wednesday, NBC news reported that Trump said last month that the United States was losing in Afghanistan and that he was considering firing his top commander there, Army Gen. John W. Nicholson.
The U.S. mission in Afghanistan also recently broke with decades of precedent when it decided that it would not release casualty notifications until after the families of the dead had been informed. Over the past 15 years of war in Afghanistan, the U.S. military gave an initial notification of an American casualty within hours of an incident before releasing the name or names of the dead about a day or so later.
That policy changed, officials said, because of the relatively small number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the likelihood that even minimal casualty releases could give away certain unit locations. In Iraq and Syria, where the United States has even fewer troops, commanders still follow the normal casualty notification process.