At least six US soldiers as well as six Afghan troops have reportedly been killed in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province after coming under direct file during a skirmish with local insurgents.
The US-based daily New York Times cited two Afghan officials as saying on Saturday that fatalities occurred as American Special Forces were assisting Afghan army soldiers in their bid to secure an area in the province that had been overrun by Taliban militants.
Earlier reports cited spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, Col. Sonny Leggett, as saying that “a combined US and Afghan forces conducting an operation” in the province came under “direct fire” but did not elaborate on the number of casualties in the battle.
“We are assessing the situation and will provide further updates as they become available,” Leggett said.
The report further noted that the total number of casualties remains unknown.
It is yet unclear which insurgent group was behind the assault on the joint US-Afghan operation, since earlier reports had pointed to Daesh (ISIL) militants as being behind the armed encounter.
The deadly incident came as the administration of US President Donald Trump has been engaged in peace negotiations with Taliban militants in efforts to end the 19-year-old American military occupation of Afghanistan.
In his State of the Union address this week, Trump mentioned the peace talks, saying that the US military shouldn’t act as “law enforcement” for other countries.
There are currently between 12,000 and 13,000 US military service members still in Afghanistan.
The development comes as a US government watchdog agency announced last week that violent attacks against US and Afghan troops have surged to record levels in the last quarter of 2019.