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US soldier killed, two wounded in Kabul after embassy delegation visit

Gen. Fazel Ahmad Sherzad, police chief for the eastern Nangarhar province, spoke during a press conference following the attack.
Gen. Fazel Ahmad Sherzad, police chief for the eastern Nangarhar province, spoke during a press conference following the attack.Rahmat Gul/Ap

KABUL — One American soldier was killed and at least two others were wounded by an Afghan in military uniform when a firefight erupted after a US Embassy delegation’s visit in eastern Afghanistan, according to US and Afghan officials.

US soldiers subsequently killed the assailant in a shootout. One Afghan soldier was also killed and two were wounded in the attack, officials said.

The attack highlighted the threats faced by roughly 10,000 US troops remaining in Afghanistan after America’s longest war was officially declared over at end of last year. Those troops, who were expected to number half that many by the end of this year, will now remain in place after President Obama agreed last month to delay their planned exit amid concerns that a resurgent Taliban could escalate its offensives this year.

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The mission of the remaining troops is mostly to train and advise Afghan security forces. But Wednesday’s assault was a reminder that even mundane tasks such as protecting US diplomats in routine meetings could turn deadly. In the past few weeks, the Taliban insurgency has begun to ramp up attacks after a nearly three-month winter lull, staging several suicide bombings in the capital and in other areas of the country.

US Army Major Chris Belcher, a spokesman for NATO’s US-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, said one service member died in the shooting but did not reveal the nationality, in accordance with military guidelines. A senior Afghan military official in Jalalabad, where the attack took place, said one American soldier was killed and two were wounded, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.

It was the second death of a coalition service member this year.

Whether the assailant was an Afghan army soldier or an insurgent disguised as one was not immediately clear. Afghan police officials in Jalalabad said the attacker was a soldier, while Afghan military officials said they were not certain and that an investigation was underway.

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If it was a so-called insider attack by an Afghan soldier, it would mark the second instance this year of such an assault.

In late January, an Afghan soldier killed three US contractors at a military base attached to Kabul’s international airport, triggering a shootout in which the attacker was killed.

Insider attacks have long plagued the relationship between Afghan forces and their US and international allies, breaking down trust and reducing interaction.

The assaults by rogue Afghan soldiers or police rose in the last years of the NATO combat mission, which formally ended in December. Assaults reached record levels in 2012, when there were 37 such attacks that killed 51 people, including 32 US troops, according to the Pentagon.

Wednesday’s shooting unfolded shortly after a senior US official held a meeting in Jalalabad with the provincial governor, said US Embassy spokeswoman Monica Cummings.

Also present at what Afghan officials described as a meeting about security and reconstruction needs were senior NATO officials, US soldiers protecting the entourage, and governors from neighboring provinces.

Hazrat Hussain Mashreqiwal, chief police spokesman for Nangahar province, of which Jalalabad is the capital, said the attack came after the delegation of US and Afghan officials left the governor’s compound.

‘‘One Afghan National Army soldier, who was on the top of a military truck with a machine gun, was guarding the governor compound along with the American soldiers,’’ said Mashreqiwal. ‘‘He opened fired on the American soldiers. The attacker was then killed in return fire.’’

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