KABUL—Eight U.S. Soldiers have died after hundreds of insurgents armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades storms a pair of remote outposts near the Pakistan border. 20 Afghan security troops were also captured.
The battle started at dawn on Saturday and lasted most of the day and marked the heaviest U.S. Loss of life in a single battle since July 2008, when nine American soldiers were killed in a raid on an outpost in Wanat in the same province.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, plans to shift U.S. troops away from remote outposts that are difficult to defend and move them into more heavily populated areas as part of his new strategy to focus on protecting Afghan civilians.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. NATO spokesman Brig. Gen. Eric Tremblay said the assailants included a mix of "tribal militias," Taliban and fighters loyal to Sirajudin Haqqani, an al-Qaida-linked militant based in sanctuaries in the tribal areas of Pakistan near the Afghan border. Afghan authorities said the hostile force included fighters who had been driven out of the Swat Valley of neighboring Pakistan after a Pakistani military offensive there last spring.
"This was a complex attack in a difficult area," U.S. Col. Randy George, the area commander, said in a statement. "Both the U.S. and Afghan soldiers fought bravely together."
As of Sunday, Oct. 4, 2009, at least 774 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to the Defense Department. The department last updated its figures Friday at 10 a.m. EDT.
Of those, the military reports 595 were killed by hostile action. Outside the Afghan region, the Defense Department reports 72 more members of the U.S. military died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Of those, three were the result of hostile action. The military lists these other locations as Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba; Djibouti; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Jordan; Kenya; Kyrgyzstan; Philippines; Seychelles; Sudan; Tajikistan; Turkey; and Yemen.
There were also four CIA officer deaths and one military civilian death.
The latest deaths reported by the military:
- Eight soldiers died Saturday when enemy forces attacked two remote outposts in the Kamdesh district of Nuristan province, Afghanistan.
- One soldier died Saturday from a roadside bomb southwest of Kabul.
The latest identifications reported by the military:
- Army Sgt. Aaron M. Smith, 25, Manhattan, Kan.; died Friday in Wardak province, Afghanistan of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked their unit using small arms fire; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.
- Army Pfc. Brandon A. Owens, 21, Memphis, Tenn.; died Friday in Wardak province, Afghanistan of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked their unit using small arms fire; assigned to the 118th Military Police Company, 503rd Military Police Battalion, 16th Military Police Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, N.C.
- Army Sgt. Roberto D. Sanchez, 24, Satellite Beach, Fla.; died Thursday in Kandahar province, Afghanistan of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Hunter Army Airfield Ga.