In one of the deadliest attacks against US forces in Afghanistan this year, a Taliban suicide bomber on a motorcycle drove into a military convoy near Bagram air base on Monday, killing six service members, US officials said.
Among the dead was Joseph Lemm, 45, a New York Police detective serving in the Air National Guard.
The attack came as Taliban forces have continued seizing territory across Afghanistan, dragging more US troops directly into the fight, despite commanders’ continued insistence that the focus of the NATO force in the nation remains on training and advising.
As the battle intensified in the fall, US President Barack Obama’s administration even reversed plans to begin withdrawing troops this year, choosing to leave 9,800 US troops in Afghanistan through at least next year.
Even away from the most intense battlegrounds, in southern and eastern Afghanistan, and with Afghan forces nominally taking the lead in the fighting, US forces have remained at risk, with at least 15 service members killed this year before the attack on Monday.
The Taliban suicide bomber struck a joint patrol of US and Afghan troops who were moving through a village near Bagram air base, a sprawling base north of Kabul that is populated largely by US service members and contractors, Afghan and US officials said.
A statement by US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter confirmed that six US service members had been killed and two others had been wounded along with a contractor for the US military.
The White House expressed condolences to the families of the dead.
“The United States condemns this cowardly attack on members of the US and Afghan forces, and we remain committed to supporting the Afghan people and their government,” the White House statement said.
Bagram Governor Abdul Shakor Qudosi said three Afghan police officers were wounded in the attack, but it was not clear whether that was in addition to the wounded mentioned by US officials, or whether he had different information.
“The suicide bomber was riding a motorcycle and struck a joint patrol [of Afghan and US soldiers],” Qudosi said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a Twitter post.
In a statement issued on Monday night, New York Police Commissioner William Bratton said that Lemm was one of the Americans killed.
Before the attack, 21 members of the coalition forces had been killed in Afghanistan this year, 15 of them Americans, according to the Web site iCasualties.
Most of the deaths were said to have been caused by aircraft crashes or indirect fire.
Officials in Helmand pleaded with the national government for reinforcements, saying that the district of Sangin remained largely under Taliban control after insurgents overran it on Sunday.
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