Insurgents ‘have US ammo’

From News24.com:

Kabul – Television footage broadcast on Tuesday showed insurgents handling what appears to be US ammunition in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan that American forces left last month following a deadly firefight that killed eight troops.

The US military said the forces that left the area said they removed and accounted for their equipment.

Al-Jazeera broadcast video showing insurgents handling weapons, including anti-personnel mines with US markings on them. The television station reported that insurgents said they seized the weapons from two US remote outposts in Nuristan province. It was unclear when the video was filmed.

Nuristan was the site of an October 3 battle in which some 200 fighters bombarded a joint US-Afghan army outpost with small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar shells. Eight US troops died – as well as three Afghan soldiers – in one of the heaviest losses of US life in a single battle since the war began.

Lt Col Todd Vician, a spokesperson for Nato forces, said the material in the footage “appears to be US equipment”. He said it was unclear how the insurgents got the weapons.

“It’s debatable whether they got them from that location,” Vician said, referring to the mountainous Kamdesh district of Nuristan where the nearly six-hour battle took place.

But Gen Mohammad Qassim Jangulbagh, provincial police chief in Nuristan, said, “The Americans left ammunition at the base.”

Three American platoons were deployed at the two posts, mostly troops from Task Force Mountain Warrior of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Carson, Colorado.

The US destroyed most of the ammunition, but some of it fell into the hands of insurgents, Jangulbagh said.

After the attack, the Pentagon said the isolated post in Nuristan was on a list of far-flung bases that US war commanders had decided were not worth keeping. The Pentagon said that decision was on the books before the assault – part of plans by top US commander in Afghanistan Gen Stanley McChrystal to shut down such isolated strongholds and focus on more heavily populated areas as part of a new strategy to protect Afghan civilians.

Jangulbagh lamented the pullback of US forces from the outposts. “Unfortunately, only the police are in Nuristan. There are no foreign troops,” he said.

Farooq Khan, a spokesperson for the Afghan National Police in Nuristan province, also said US forces left behind arms and ammunition when they left the area, which he said is now in insurgent hands.

However, Gen Shir Mohammad Karimi, chief of operations for the Afghan Defence Ministry, was sceptical.

“As far as I know, nothing was left behind,” Karimi said.

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