"A combined US and Afghan force conducting an operation in Nangarhar province was engaged by direct fire on Feb. 8," US forces in Afghanistan spokesperson Col. Sonny Leggett told reporters Saturday afternoon.
The spokesman confirmed that the US had suffered casualties, but did not say how many. "We are assessing the situation and will provide further updates as they become available," Leggett said.
Unconfirmed media reports suggest that up to six US troops and six Afghan troops have been killed.
New York Times Afghanistan correspondent Mujib Mashal says the troops may have been killed in a "green on blue" incident, i.e. an attack where Afghan servicemembers turn their weapons on the NATO troops they're deployed with.
Multiple sources tell us it is as many as five or six US fatalities. One official says 6 on Afghan side too.— Mujib Mashal (@MujMash) February 8, 2020
US military is confirming an incident — “a combined US & Afghan force conducting an operation in Nangarhar was engaged by direct fire” — but not providing any details. https://t.co/Tb9CiyyCgW
Freelance Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary reported that multiple sources told him that the incident was indeed a green on blue scenario, and that it took place in Nangarhar's Shirzad district.
#AFG A shoot out took place between Afghan soldiers and the American soldiers in Shirzad district in Ningarhar province. There are casualties and fatalities on both sides, multiple sources in Ningarhar province tells me.— BILAL SARWARY (@bsarwary) February 8, 2020
An anonymous Afghan official told AFP that coalition forces have since cordoned off the area.
Situated along the porous border with Pakistan, Nangarhar province once served as the home base of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Nearly two decades after the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, US, NATO and Afghan forces continue to come under attack by the Taliban in the region, with a local Daesh (ISIS)* affiliate also believed to be active in the area.
Longest War in US History
The United States invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, ostensibly in response to the Taliban government's sheltering of top al-Qaeda officials including bin Laden, and has been fighting a Taliban insurgency ever since, with the war in Afghanistan recently officially becoming the longest war in US history.
The US has spent an estimated $2.15 trillion on the war, and it has cost the lives of over 2,350 US military personnel, hundreds of troops more from the NATO-led coalition, and over 62,000 Afghan security forces personnel, as well as over 38,000 Afghan civilians. US President Donald Trump visited the country for the first time in November 2019, and touted the possibility of reaching a peace deal with the Taliban. Peace talk efforts have been complicated, however, by repeated back-and-forth attacks by Taliban and coalition forces.
Afghanistan has been in a state of war for over four decades, with the conflict in the country beginning shortly after a Soviet-sympathetic government took power in the country in 1978, prompting the CIA to funnel billions of dollars of aid to the Mujahideen rebels. In late 1979, Moscow deployed a limited military contingent of forces to the country at Kabul's request, sparking off a ten-year-long conflict known as the Soviet-Afghan War. Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. The pro-Moscow government of Mohammad Najibullah held out for several more years, until 1992, when it was defeated by the Taliban. In the 1990s, the Taliban and other insurgent groups including the Northern Alliance divided up the country, effectively turning it into a failed state.
* A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.