KABUL, Afghanistan – On the same day that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey arrived in Afghanistan for an assessment visit, six Americans were killed Saturday in attacks by insurgents.
Hours after Dempsey arrived, five Americans – three soldiers and two civilians – were killed when a bomb-laden vehicle exploded in Zabul province in the southeast. An Afghan doctor was also killed in the attack on a convoy headed to a hospital for a visit.
Another American was killed in an insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan, military officials said. The one-day American death toll was the highest since last summer.
The bloodshed was condemned by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who said the victims included “an exceptional young Foreign Service officer,” a woman whose name was not immediately released.
“Just last week in Kabul,” Kerry said, “I met our fallen officer when she was selected to support me during my visit to Afghanistan. She was everything a Foreign Service officer should be: smart, capable, eager to serve and deeply committed to our country and the difference she was making for the Afghan people.”
Kerry said the convoy, including U.S. officials and Afghan colleagues, was on its way to donate books to students in the provincial capital when the attack took place.
Dempsey is in Afghanistan for a weekend visit aimed at assessing the amount and type of training that U.S. troops will continue to provide Afghan defense forces after 2014, military officials said.
Saturday’s violence follows an insurgent strategy of attacking foreign troops to persuade them to hasten their departure, analysts said, as well as targeting symbols of the Afghan state to discredit it.
Dempsey, who arrived at Bagram air base after an overnight flight, was scheduled to meet with U.S. allied commanders, Afghan officials and soldiers in the field, said John Manley, deputy spokesman with the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force coalition, or ISAF. Dempsey was last in Afghanistan in February for a change-of-command ceremony.
America’s top military commander told reporters his assessment would help shape U.S. decisions about how many American troops should remain after the U.S. and NATO combat role ends next year, according to the Associated Press.
There are currently 100,000 coalition troops in Afghanistan, according to ISAF, 68,000 of them Americans. Dempsey told reporters Friday that he would probably decide this summer the ideal size of the U.S. force beyond 2014 after seeing how much progress Afghan forces had made.
ISAF has put significant focus on training Afghan troops in preparation for drastically reducing its role, but has had mixed success. The sharp rise in attacks on foreign troops by gunmen in Afghan military uniforms, whether by genuine soldiers or insurgents using uniforms as cover, has increased distrust between the allies.
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