2 US service members killed at special operations base in Afghanistan
By Jamieson Lesko and Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News
At least two American service members were killed this morning when a man dressed in Afghan police clothing entered a meeting and opened fire on coalition and Afghan forces. NBC's Mike Taibbi reports.
The shooting occurred at a U.S. special operations outpost in Wardak province in eastern Afghanistan, U.S. officials said. The shooter, who was dressed in an Afghan military or police uniform, was shot and killed.
"We have two confirmed dead, but the toll could rise,” one U.S. official said.
A senior official in the Afghan Defense Ministry said that at least three Afghans were also killed.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message sent by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. The group has falsely claimed responsibility for attacks in the past.
The shooting occurred during a group meeting or briefing, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force said.
Monday’s incident marks the first time Americans have been killed by enemy contact in Afghanistan since Jan. 7, according to U.S. officials.
The attack took place as a deadline expired for U.S. special forces to leave Wardak, after Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused them and Afghans working for them of overseeing torture and killings in the area.
It was not immediately clear if the attack was directed at U.S. special forces.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who left Afghanistan early on Monday after a three-day visit, raised the sensitive issue of Wardak when he met Karzai.
U.S. forces have denied involvement in any abuses in Wardak.
Other issues besides Wardak have pointed to a particularly strained relationship between Kabul and Washington of late.
Slideshow: Afghanistan: Nation at a crossroads
More than ten years after the beginning of the war, Afghanistan faces external pressure to reform as well as ongoing internal conflicts.
On Sunday, Karzai said in a speech that the U.S. was colluding with the Taliban to keep foreign forces in Afghanistan beyond next year's planned withdrawal, and he went so far as to accuse the two sides of holding daily meetings.
A planned joint press conference with Hagel and Karzai was canceled shortly after Karzai's comments. "Security concerns" were cited as the reason.
The commander of coalition forces, U.S. General Joseph Dunford, and a Taliban spokesman rejected all of Karzai’s assertions unequivocally.
By Sunday night, Dunford was compelled to say the U.S. did "not have a broken relationship” with Karzai or a lack of trust. Hagel told reporters that as a former politician himself he “can understand the kind of pressures national leaders are always under,” and that the two countries will be able to move forward together.
Reuters contributed to this report.