Afghanistan war: Deadly ambush of medical mission roils one of safest provinces
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the ambush of a medical mission that killed six Americans, one Briton, one German, and two Afghans. The attack highlights the difficulty of limiting the reach of insurgent activity in the Afghanistan war.
In one of Afghanistan's safest provinces, 10 members of a medical mission – including six Americans – were killed by militants. The attack highlights the trouble coalition forces have had containing the reach of insurgent activity in the Afghanistan war.Skip to next paragraph
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The six Americans, one Briton, one German, and three Afghans, were returning from a two-week mission providing eye treatment in Nuristan Province. All were found shot in Badakhshan Province except for one of the Afghans, who escaped.
Some reports suggested the attack might stem from criminal activity, but a Taliban spokesman claimed the killings, telling the Associated Press that the group was "spying for the Americans" and "preaching Christianity." The group, International Assistance Mission (IAM), is a Christian organization, but on its website the group says it does not use aid to further a religious view.
Badakhshan is located in the far northeast of Afghanistan and is home to few ethnic Pashtuns, the group from which the Taliban draws its membership.
However, "dry tinder" for militancy remains: The province lies on a major opium smuggling route and some former commanders are searching for work. Meanwhile, the Taliban have recently overrun several bordering districts in Pakistan and Afghanistan, imperiling the stability of one of the country's calmest provinces.
"I believe we have this risk of losing some areas of Badakhshan, either through the criminal groups, former commanders who are allied with insurgents, and some who are part of the insurgency," says Waliullah Rahmani, head of the Kabul Center for Strategic Studies.
In the second quarter of this year, Badakhshan ranked 5th safest out of 34 provinces in terms of attacks initiated by armed opposition groups, according to the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office.