KABUL — An Afghan teenager fatally stabbed an American soldier in the neck while he played with local children, officials said Monday, as the US death toll rose sharply last month with an uptick in fighting because of warmer temperatures.
Last week’s calculated attack shows that international troops still face dangers even though they are increasingly taking a back seat in operations with Afghan forces ahead of a full withdrawal by the end of 2014.
Just one US service member was killed in February — a five-year monthly low — but the American death toll climbed to at least 14 last month.
Overall, the number of Americans and other foreign forces killed in Afghanistan has fallen as their role shifts more toward training and advising government troops instead of fighting.
But so-called insider attacks on foreign troops by Afghan forces of insurgents disguised as them has threatened to undermine the trust needed to help President Hamid Karzai’s government take the lead in securing the country after more than 11 years at war. The attack that killed Sergeant Michael Cable, 26, of Philpot, Ky., last Wednesday occurred after the soldiers had secured an area for a meeting of US and Afghan officials in a province near the volatile border with Pakistan.
But one of two senior US officials who confirmed that Cable had been stabbed by a young man said the assailant was not believed to have been in uniform so it was not being classified as an insider attack.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said the attacker was thought to be about 16 years old. He escaped so his age couldn’t be verified.
Cable’s brother Raymond Johnston, a 42-year-old waiter in Owensboro, Ky., said the Army told the family the basics of what happened and that his brother was stabbed in the neck from behind.
Cable’s body is scheduled to return to Owensboro in western Kentucky on Thursday.