This image made from AP video shows Afghan National Army soldiers rushing to the scene moments after a car bomb exploded in front the PRT, Provincial Reconstruction Team, in Qalat, Zabul province, southern Afghanistan, Saturday, April 6, 2013. Six American troops and civilians and an Afghan doctor were killed in attacks on Saturday in southern and eastern Afghanistan as the U.S. military's top officer began a weekend visit to the country, officials said. (AP Photo via AP video)
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A gunbattle during an Afghan-led military operation in eastern Afghanistan left one U.S. civilian adviser and as many as 11 suspected Taliban militants dead, officials said Sunday.
Afghan forces have increasingly been taking the lead in combat operations as international forces prepare to withdraw by the end of 2014. But U.S. and other foreign troops still face dangers as they work to prepare the Afghans to take over their own security.
The American adviser was one of three U.S. civilians killed Saturday. The two others — a female foreign service officer with the U.S. State Department and an employee with the U.S. Defense Department — were killed in a suicide bombing in southern Zabul province during a trip to donate books to Afghan students. Three U.S. soldiers also were killed in the attack.
Col. Thomas Collins, a spokesman for U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, provided new details about the adviser's death Sunday, saying he was killed during fighting in Kunar province. Most of the troops on the ground were Afghan and the Americans were operating in an advisory and training role, he said. The coalition also provided air support.
The two-day operation was launched Friday after a tip that dozens of Taliban were concentrated in an area in the Shigal district, which borders Pakistan, according to provincial government spokesman Wasifullah Wasify.
Afghanistan's Interior Ministry said six Taliban militants were killed in the operation in Sano Dara Sheltan village, including two senior commanders identified as Ali Khan and Gul Raof, the main planner and organizer of attacks in the area.
Wasify put the casualty toll at 11 Taliban militants killed, and four Afghan security forces, six civilians and 10 Taliban militants wounded.
The different figures could not be immediately reconciled, but the governor sent a fact-finding delegation to the area to get more details.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry mourned the first death of the foreign service officer killed in the bombing — the first death of an American diplomat on the job since last year's Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic installation in Benghazi, Libya.
Kerry called the death of Anne Smedinghoff, a 25-year-old native of Illinois, a "grim reminder" of the danger facing American foreign service workers serving overseas.
Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez contributed to this report.