ISLAMABAD - The Pentagon confirms that six U.S. service members were killed by a suicide bomber Monday on an attack on a NATO patrol near Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
The Taliban is claiming responsibly for the attack, saying a suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed 19 soldiers. But the Taliban is notorious for exaggerating casualty numbers. NATO says it will investigate the attack.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter calls the bombing a "painful reminder" of the dangers U.S. troops face in Afghanistan every day.
"As I saw firsthand during my visit to Afghanistan last Friday, our troops are working diligently alongside our Afghan partners to build a brighter future for the Afghan people," he said. "Their dedicated efforts will continue despite this tragic event."
Carter also said the bombing wounded two other U.S. service members and a contractor.
The White House sends condolences to families of the victims and says it will not relent in countering the threat of terrorism that plagues the region.
Bagram Air Base is located some 40-kilometers north of the Afghan capital, Kabul. It is one of several air bases for some 10,000 American soldiers engaged in training and advising local security forces in addition to conducting counter-terrorism operations.
Monday's attack comes nearly two weeks after a group of heavily armed Taliban suicide bombers stormed a southern Kandahar air base, also housing U.S. soldiers. The siege lasted for more than 29 hours in which more than 54 people, mostly Afghan civilians, were killed.
The Taliban later said that assault was part of its plans to mount attacks on all U.S.-controlled bases in Afghanistan.
The Islamist insurgency, meanwhile, has stepped up attacks in its bid to seize control of the southern Helmand province, though Afghan officials claimed to have reversed the Taliban gains in Monday's counter attacks. But it is not possible verify either claim because of the volatile security situation in the poppy-growing Afghan province for the past several months.
Calls for peaceful settlement
Nicolas Haysom, with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), again urged the Taliban Monday to end its violent campaign and respond to the Afghan government's offer of peace talks.
He made the remarks while briefing the U.N. Security Council on the latest situation in Afghanistan.
“I call upon the Taliban, who have not yet committed to entering into a peace process, to reciprocate the government’s commitment by themselves stepping forward to directly engage with the government,” Haysom said.
He praised efforts by countries such as Pakistan, the U.S. and China for making renewed efforts to promote direct talks between the government and the Taliban.
The UNAMA chief said the conflict is badly hurting civilians and impeding both political and economic progress in Afghanistan.
“There is no other way for insurgent groups to demonstrate a commitment to the welfare and prosperity of their fellow citizens than to search for a peaceful resolution to the conflict," he said. "The reliance on violent conflict to achieve political ends places a question mark other their intentions."
Thousands of U.S. troops are stationed at Bagram training Afghan forces for the time when Afghanistan can become totally responsible for its own security.