Afghan military and US forces were fired on as they conducted a joint operation in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province, US military notified on Saturday. There were multiple American casualties, but the number and the extent of the injuries were not immediately known, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss information that has not been officially released.
US military spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett said in a statement that both Afghan and U.S. personnel were ’engaged by direct firing.” “We are assessing the situation,” Leggett said, without saying whether there were any casualties. There were no other details.
The Taliban and the Islamic State group affiliate both operate in eastern Nangarhar province. The incident comes as Washington seeks to find an end to Afghanistan’s 18-year war, America’s longest. Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been meeting with Taliban representatives in the Middle Eastern state of Qatar in recent weeks. He’s seeking an agreement to reduce hostilities to get a peace deal signed that would start negotiations among Afghans on both sides of the conflict.
In his State of the Union Address on Tuesday, President Donald Trump referenced the peace talks, saying U.S. soldiers were not meant to serve as “law enforcement agencies” for other nations. “In Afghanistan, the determination and valor of our warfighters have allowed us to make tremendous progress, and peace talks are now underway, ” he said.
A UN report stated that the civilian deaths caused by the US and Afghan forces are rising and surpassing for the first time those caused by the Taliban and other insurgents. It found that US and Afghan forces killed 717 civilians and injured 680 in the first six months of 2019, up 31% from the same period in 2018. The Taliban and IS killed 531 and wounded 1,437, down 43%.
According to the U.S. Air Forces Central Command, the US conducted more bombings and drone strikes in Afghanistan in August than in any previous month in 2019 — 783, compared to 613 in July and 441 in June. As per the report, from January to June in 2019, aerial operations have caused 519 civilian casualties (363 deaths and 156 injured), 150 of which were child casualties (89 deaths and 61 injured).
A month ago, the US resumed its talks with the Taliban in Qatar, three months after the US President Donald Trump abruptly halted the diplomatic efforts and called it "dead." The US President Donald Trump had confirmed the resumption of talks, however, had refused to give a timeline for the drawdown of US troops. "Yes," Trump told a small group of reporters at the Bagram Air Field on November 29.
(With AP inputs)