General Scott Miller during Afghanistan’s independence day celebrations. (Source: General Scott Miller’s official Twitter handle)

U.S. Military Commander Survives Deadly Afghan Attack

(Bloomberg) -- The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, General Austin Scott Miller, was uninjured in a Taliban attack in the southern province of Kandahar that killed at least two regional officials.

Two Americans were also wounded in Thursday’s attack, described by the U.S. as an “Afghan-on-Afghan incident” that underscored the lack of stability in the country 17 years after U.S. troops first arrived. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said Miller was one of their targets in the attack, which killed Kandahar’s police chief and a provincial intelligence chief.

A bodyguard for Governor Zalmay Weesa opened fire at the compound of the governor’s office in Kandahar after a meeting attended by Miller, police chief Abdul Raziq, and the head of the local intelligence agency. Raziq, an influential official in the southern region, has been an outspoken critic of the Taliban. There were conflicting reports about the status of Weesa.

A high-level team, including Afghan Defense Minister Tariq Shah Bahrami and the chief of the nation’s intelligence agency, was sent to Kandahar to stabilize the situation, President Ashraf Ghani said in a televised address to the nation.

Election Plans

The incident takes place as Afghanistan is slated to hold its third long-delayed parliamentary election since the start of post-Taliban era in 2001 on Saturday. The Taliban has vowed to block parliamentary elections nationwide.

The country’s nearly two-decade-long conflict has ground to a violent stalemate, with U.S. and Afghan forces unable to bring about a conclusive military victory. While U.S. President Donald Trump has authorized an increase in air strikes and boosted the number of American troops stationed in Afghanistan, his administration is also seeking to negotiate an accord with the Taliban.

According to a July 31 report by a Pentagon watchdog, Afghan forces are continuing to lose ground as targeted terrorist attacks rise and poppy cultivation reaches record levels. As of Oct. 17, the Pentagon says 2,351 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan since hostilities began, with about 21,000 wounded.

About 14,000 U.S. troops are now in Afghanistan, down from a peak of about 100,000 during the Obama administration.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.