The Taliban has alleged that it was behind a recent attack carried out by a member of the United States taxpayer-funded Afghan National Defense and Security Force (ANDSF) against American troops in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, killing three U.S. soldiers and wounding one another.
Nevertheless, Afghan officials are skeptical of the Taliban claim that it infiltrated the ANDSF.
“It is part of their propaganda war,” Gen. Mohammad Radmanish, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, told the New York Times (NYT), referring to the Taliban. “We need to investigate what really happened here.”
Officially, insider assaults by Afghan forces against their American counterparts are known as “green-on-blue” attacks.
Citing Jawed Salim, a spokesman for the Afghan Army Special Forces command, the Times reports that the American military casualties on Saturday were a result of a “green-on-blue” attack by an Afghan commando.
However, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, in a statement obtained by CNN, said, “A Mujahid [jihadist] infiltrator of the Islamic Emirate who had enrolled himself in the Kabul government’s army attacked American soldiers in Lata Band area of Achin district in Nangarhar province today in the afternoon. The American invaders were there to support their Afghan slaves.”
Noting that the incident is under investigation, the Pentagon has identified the three U.S. Army fatalities as: “Sgt. Eric Houck, 25, of Baltimore, Maryland; Sgt. William Bays, 29 of Barstow, California; and Corp. Dillon Baldridge, 22 of Youngsville, North Carolina.”
The U.S. military has identified Nangarhar province as a stronghold of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) branch in the region, considered a rival by the Taliban, the strongest and largest terrorist group in Afghanistan.
American troops and their Afghan allies have been combating the ISIS wing in Nangarhar for months. Known as the Khorasan Province, the branch established itself in the region back in January 2015.
NYT acknowledges that all six U.S. military combat deaths this year have occurred during operations against ISIS in Nangarhar.
“Five of the six may have been killed by their own side, according to reports from American and Afghan military officials,” adds the newspaper.
The most recent insider attack may mark the third one this year.
As of the end of March, there were two possible attacks in which ANDSF troops, which includes police and army units, turned their weapons against U.S. forces, reported the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
One of the “green-on-blue” assaults resulted in no casualties, but the other may have wounded three American service members, though not critically. The Pentagon has said the injuries incident is under investigation.
“From January 1, 2017, through February 24, 2017, there were 12 insider attacks in which ANDSF personnel turned on fellow ANDSF personnel. These attacks killed 12 Afghan personnel and wounded eight,” reported SIGAR.
Since former President Barack Obama ended the U.S. combat mission at the end of 2014, at least 23 American military personnel have been killed in action, including the recent three, in addition to 13 non-combat deaths, for a total of 33 United States fatalities, according to a Pentagon tally.
As of the end of March, at least 162 other U.S. troops had been wounded in action.
In total, 2,254 American troops have been killed since the war started in 2001. The majority (1,857) of them lost their life during combat.
At least 20,232 other U.S. troops have been wounded during action. Most of the casualties during the ongoing Afghanistan war took place under the former president’s watch.
President Donald Trump has continued the U.S. combat mission after inheriting a quagmire in the war-ravaged nation from his predecessor.