Afghan Attack Kills Eight U.S. Soldiers

Posted on October 4, 2009. Filed under: America | Tags: , , |

By ANAND GOPAL

KABUL — Eight American troops and two Afghan soldiers were killed during a firefight in a remote part of Afghanistan Saturday, one of the worst single-day battlefield losses for U.S. forces since the war began. The deaths come at a time the U.S. is studying the possibility of closing remote outposts and shifting troops to more populated areas.

A tribal militia attacked two U.S. outposts in the northeastern province of Nuristan early Saturday, resulting in a prolonged firefight, a U.S. military spokeswoman said. The militia launched its attack from a mosque and a village near the Afghan-Pakistani border, said Muhammad Farouq, the provincial security chief. U.S. military officials declined to release further details of the incident until an investigation was completed. The Associated Press reported that as many as seven Afghan troops died in the attack.

“This was a complex attack in a difficult area. Both the U.S. and Afghan soldiers fought bravely together,” Col. Randy George, a commander of forces in the region, said in a statement.

It is unclear if the tribal militia has a relationship with the insurgents. However, insurgents in the area enjoy the support of locals, Afghan government and U.S. military officials said. “It’s very hard to separate the population from the insurgency there,” said Lt. Ryan Keogh, who previously was stationed in an area near the region where the firefight took place. “The population backs the insurgents and often act in conjunction with them.”

The U.S. is considering closing small, remote outposts such as those that were attacked Saturday. The shift is part of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s proposed strategy to place forces near population centers and away from isolated areas. “There’s no strategic value to having outposts in places where there aren’t a lot of Afghans,” one U.S. military official based in northeastern Afghanistan said.

Nuristan, a rugged, mountainous province that borders Pakistan, has been the scene of similar attacks. In July 2008, a group of 200 insurgents overran an isolated U.S. combat outpost, killing nine soldiers and wounding 27 in what remains the single biggest U.S. battlefield loss in the war. American forces subsequently withdrew from the area and it has now been overtaken by insurgents, according to local residents.

Read more in The Wall Street Journal

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