— Six members of the NATO military mission in Afghanistan
were killed by a Taliban suicide bomber on Monday while on patrol near Bagram Air Base, the largest remaining American military base in the country, officials said.
Local officials said that at least some of the dead were American soldiers. But the United States military
command, as a matter of policy, refused to disclose the nationalities of the dead. Col. Michael T. Lawhorn, a spokesman for the NATO coalition in Afghanistan, said only that the six people killed were members of the international coalition. He added that the explosion, by a “vehicle borne” bomb around 1:30 p.m., also wounded three other people.
Abdul Shakor Qudosi, the district governor of Bagram, which is north of Kabul, said three Afghan police officers were wounded in the attack. “The suicide bomber was riding a motorcycle and struck a joint patrol,” Mr. Qudosi said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a Twitter message.
NATO casualties have dropped in 2015 as Afghan forces have taken the lead and Western forces have focused more on training and advising. Before the attack on Monday, 21 members of the coalition forces had been killed in Afghanistan this year, with 15 of them Americans, according to the website iCasualties. Most of the deaths were said to be caused by aircraft crashes or indirect fire.
In recent months, however, American Special Operations forces have been drawn back onto the battlefield as Afghan forces have struggled against insurgent offensives that are threatening important population centers. United States military assistance from the air as well as on the ground was considered a crucial factor in the Afghan forces’ taking back Kunduz, the first city to briefly fall to the Taliban in 14 years.
Now, as the Taliban make a major push in southern Helmand Province, overrunning districts and knocking at the gates of the provincial capital, Laskar Gah, American Special Forces have been reported on the ground again to try to keep the province from fully falling to the insurgents.
Local officials in Helmand on Monday pleaded with the national government for reinforcements, saying the district of Sangin remained largely under Taliban control after insurgents overran it on Sunday after several days of intense fighting and heavy casualties.
“Last night, NATO forces targeted two locations in Sangin, but it has not affected the Taliban momentum, and heavy fighting still continues,” said Mohammad Karim Attal, head of the provincial council in Helmand.
Mr. Attal said the Taliban leadership, based across the border in Pakistan, had decided six months ago to seize Helmand and base more of the insurgent command in the province.
In addition to Sangin, heavy fighting has continued in the districts of Khanashin, falling back and forth between government and Afghan forces in recent weeks, as well as Marja, Greshk and Washir. For weeks now, Taliban have also been holed up in Babaji, a suburb of Laskar Gah.
“If the central government does not pay attention to the security situation in Helmand, the province will eventually fall,” Mr. Attal said.