2 soldiers killed in Afghanistan attack identified

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Two U.S. soldiers were killed and six wounded in a so-called insider attack in eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province late Saturday when an Afghan dressed in an Afghan army uniform opened fire, the U.S. military said.

Sunday, Army Special Operations Command identified the two soldiers as Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Rodriguez and Sgt. 1st Class Javier Gutierrez. Both men were members of the 7th Special Forces Group based at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

According to a statement from the Army, 28-year-old Rodriguez was born in Las Cruces, N.M., and enlisted in 2009. He was stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., before he was assigned to the 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment as a cryptologic linguist.

Gutierrez, 28, was born in Jacksonville, N.C. He was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., when he enlisted in 2009 and was transferred to Florida as a Special Forces Communications Sergeant.

Both men were posthumously promoted to Sgt. 1st Class and awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart.

A member of Nangarhar's provincial council, Ajmal Omer, told The Associated Press that the gunman was killed. There have been numerous attacks by Afghan national army soldiers on their allied partners during 18 years of America's protracted war in Afghanistan.

Six U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan since the start of 2020, including Saturday's casualties. Last year, 22 U.S. service personnel died in combat there.

An Afghan defense ministry official, who was not identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the shooter was an Afghan soldier who had argued with the U.S. forces before opening fire. He was not a Taliban infiltrator, the official said.

In a statement, the U.S. military said "an individual in an Afghan uniform opened fire on the combined U.S. and Afghan force with a machine gun. We are still collecting information and the cause or motive behind the attack is unknown at this time."

Omer, the provincial council member, is from Nangarhar province's Sherzad district, where he said the incident took place. An Afghan soldier was also wounded, Omer said.

The U.S. military said American and Afghan military personnel were fired on while conducting an operation in Nangarhar province.

Last July, two U.S. service members were killed by an Afghan soldier in the southern Kandahar province. The shooter was wounded and arrested. In September, three U.S. military personnel were wounded when a member of the Afghan Civil Order Police fired on a military convoy, also in Kandahar.

The incident came as Washington has sought to find an end to the war in Afghanistan.

Washington's peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been meeting with Taliban representatives in the Middle Eastern state of Qatar in recent weeks. He's seeking an agreement to reduce hostilities to get a peace deal signed that would start negotiations among Afghans on both sides of the conflict.

In his State of the Union Address on Tuesday, President Donald Trump referenced the peace talks, saying U.S. soldiers were not meant to serve as "law enforcement agencies" for other nations.

"In Afghanistan, the determination and valor of our war fighters has allowed us to make tremendous progress, and peace talks are now underway," he said.
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