The Taliban claimed credit for a roadside bombing near Ghazni City that killed three US soldiers and wounded three more, in addition to an American contractor who was accompanying the convoy. Ghazni remains a hotbed of Taliban activity in southeastern Afghanistan and the US military has been forced to deploy units there to prevent its collapse.
Resolute Support, NATO’s command in Afghanistan, confirmed the attack and the death of the three soldiers in a statement released on its website.
“The wounded service members and contractor were evacuated and are receiving medical care,” Resolute Support said.
Four US soldiers have been killed in combat in Afghanistan over the past four days. On Nov. 24, a US soldier was killed “while conducting an operation to eliminate al Qaeda militants” in the southwestern province of Nimroz. Resolute Support believes the soldiers was accidentally killed by an Afghan soldier in close quarters combat “during an assault on one of multiple barricaded al Qaeda shooters.”
US military casualties in Ghazni should come as no surprise, as US forces have stepped up operations in the province as security there has deteriorated over the past year. Ghazni has become the most hotly contested province in Afghanistan, which is no small feat given the Taliban’s mastery in strongholds such as Helmand and Kunduz. Of Ghazni’s 19 districts, 12 are controlled by the Taliban and six more are contested, according to an ongoing study by FDD’s Long War Journal.
In August, the Taliban made an incursion into the provincial capital of Ghazni City and controlled several areas for five days before withdrawing. The US military was forced to send combat forces, advisers, air support and other enablers to help the struggling Afghan military regain control of the capital.
The Taliban, emboldened by its successes in Ghazni and the surrounding provinces, then launched an assault on the districts of Jaghuri and Malistan. The two districts, which are predominantly comprised of Hazara populations, were considered to be the most secure rural districts in all of the country. The Taliban rampaged through the districts, targeting members of the local Hazara militia and burning thousands of homes, before Afghan forces launched a belated counterattack.
The Taliban routinely reports on its operations in Ghazni on its official propaganda website. While the Taliban is guilty of inflating casualties that it inflicts on Afghan and US forces, the operations themselves often can be confirmed in the Afghan press. Today, the Taliban claimed it killed 16 Afghan security personnel in Shilgar district and two more in Qarabagh.
The situation in Ghazni has deteriorated to the point that the province was unable to participate in this month’s provincial elections. Of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, Ghazni was the only one not capable of conducting the election.