KABUL, Afghanistan – A multipronged militant assault on a small, remote U.S. base close to the Pakistan border killed nine American soldiers and wounded 15 Sunday in the deadliest attack on U.S. forces in Afghanistan in three years, officials said.
The attack on the American troops began about 4:30 a.m. and lasted throughout the day. Militants fired machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars from homes and a mosque in the village of Wanat in the mountainous northeastern province of Kunar, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said in a statement.
“Although no final assessment has been made, it is believed insurgents suffered heavy casualties during several hours of fighting,” NATO said in a statement.
U.S. officials say militant attacks in Afghanistan are becoming more complex, intense and better coordinated than a year ago. Monthly death tolls of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan surpassed U.S. military deaths in Iraq in May and June. And last Monday, a suicide bomber attacked the Indian Embassy in Kabul, killing 58 people in the deadliest attack in the Afghan capital since 2001.
U.S. officials are considering drawing down additional forces from Iraq in coming months, in part because of the need for additional U.S. troops in Afghanistan. U.S. officials have said they need at least 10,000 more troops in Afghanistan.
NATO confirmed nine of its soldiers had been killed and 15 wounded. A Western official said the nine dead were Americans, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the troops’ nationalities. Four Afghan soldiers also were wounded, NATO said.
The attack was the deadliest for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since June 2005. It came at a time of rising violence in Afghanistan. Also on Sunday, a suicide bomber targeting a police patrol killed 24 people while U.S. coalition and Afghan soldiers killed 40 militants elsewhere in the south.
More than 2,300 people – mostly militants – have died in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an Associated Press tally. Attacks in eastern Afghanistan are up 40 percent this year compared with last year.
Another cause for concern in Afghanistan is the high casualty tolls for civilians. This month, an Afghan government commission found that U.S. aircraft killed 47 civilians during a bombing run in Nangarhar province, while a separate incident in Nuristan province is alleged by Afghan officials to have killed 22 civilians.
The tolls have prompted the International Committee of the Red Cross this week to ask all sides to show restraint and avoid civilian casualties. But violence continued around the country on Sunday.
The suicide bomber who killed 24 was on a motorcycle when he blew himself up next to a police patrol in the southern province of Uruzgan. The attack killed five police officers and 19 civilians, wounding more than 30 others, said Juma Gul Himat, Uruzgan’s police chief. Most of those killed and wounded were shopkeepers and young boys selling goods in the street, he said.
Taliban militants executed two women in central Afghanistan on Saturday after accusing them of working as prostitutes on a U.S. base. The women were shot and killed just outside Ghazni city in central Afghanistan, said Sayed Ismal, a spokesman for Ghazni’s governor. He called the two “innocent local people.”
Taliban fighters told Associated Press Television News the two women were executed for allegedly running a prostitution ring catering to U.S. soldiers and other foreign contractors at a U.S. base in Ghazni city.
1st Lt. Nathan Perry, a U.S. military spokesman, said he had not heard allegations “anything close to that nature.”