Taliban Attack Clinic Near American Bagram Airfield Days After Afghan Peace Talks Restart

A savage fusillade of gunfire erupted early Wednesday morning and continued into the late afternoon between Taliban militants and U.S.-Afghan forces near Bagram Airfield, the largest American base in Afghanistan.

In a powerful suicide bombing aimed at a medical facility under construction in an attempt to breach Bagram Airfield, two Afghan civilians were killed and more than 70 civilians were wounded during the attack claimed by the Taliban this afternoon, according to both American and Afghan officials. The firefight lasted more than nine hours.

There were no casualties among the American or coalition forces as the gun battle continued into Wednesday afternoon. Some service members were evaluated for minor injuries as a result of the initial attack but no major injuries were reported, but were later released, said a Resolute Support spokesperson.

The Georgian Defense Ministry said that five Georgian servicemen sustained minor injuries in the attack but the injuries were not severe and hospitalization was not necessary.

In an earlier press release, Resolute Support officials said armed fighters stood their ground inside the medical facility, but that the, "situation is isolated to the clinic building and Bagram airfield is not in danger and the defensive perimeter was never breached or compromised."

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A U.S. soldier stands guard next to Air Force One as President Donald Trump makes a surprise Thanksgiving day visit to the US troops at Bagram Air Field, on November 28, 2019 in Afghanistan. On December 11, 2019, the U.S. military base in Afghanistan was attacked by what American officials described as a suicide bombing. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The attack comes as talks resumed this weekend between the United States and Taliban negotiators some three months after President Donald Trump abruptly canceled a secret meeting at Camp David to broker a deal to end America's longest war. Trump cited a Taliban attack that killed Army Sergeant First Class Elis Barreto Ortiz, as the reason for calling off the peace talks.

Last month, President Trump surprised American forces at Bagram Air Field over Thanksgiving and said, "Victory on the battlefield will always belong to you, the American warrior. In the long run, of course, the future of Afghanistan and nations across this region will not be decided on the battlefield."

He added: "Ultimately, there will be—need to be a political solution, and we're working with the President [Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan] and we're working with a lot of people right now on a political solution decided by the people of the region themselves."

Before the sun rose over Afghanistan Wednesday morning, military forces stationed at the American base heard, "Ground attack in sector bravo five. Shelter in place," over an emergency alert system at Bagram Airfield in the early stages of the assault amid the barrage of gunfire and whining sirens, according to a video of the attack posted to social media.

A senior Defense Department official confirmed to Newsweek that the American military base in Afghanistan had been targeted by a suicide bombing but was unable to provide any further details.

The Associated Press first reported the news late Tuesday evening that an American convoy had been targeted. It was not immediately clear if a U.S. military convoy was involved.

The medical facility, targeted by Taliban militants, sits just outside the boundaries of the American airfield located near the northern corner of Bagram. Militant attempted to gain access to Bagram via a conjoining gate which can access the American base.

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Damaged buildings are pictured at the scene of a car bombing near the largest US military in Afghanistan, north of Kabul in Parwan province, on December 11, 2019. - At least one person was killed and dozens wounded when a bomb exploded close to the largest US military base in Afghanistan on December 11, damaging homes and a hospital under construction near Bagram Airfield, officials said. STR/AFP via Getty Images

Known colloquially as the Korean hospital as it was formerly a South-Korean-run medical facility, Taliban militants used a car rigged with explosives to breach the steel-reinforced concrete blast walls, known as T-walls, of the hospital compound.

The hospital is being rebuilt to help local Afghans but the future medical facility was badly damaged, said a Resolute Support spokesperson.

As the gunfight continued into late Wednesday morning and into the afternoon, Apache attack helicopters and fighter jets were called in to provide air cover as the ground attack continued.

"Taliban fighters who remained after an unsuccessful attempt to breach Bagram Airfield were killed in a series of airstrikes this evening," said a Resolute Support spokesperson in an updated statement to Newsweek. "The fighters barricaded themselves inside the medical facility building they attacked early Wednesday morning."

The spokesperson added: "Coalition forces, in coordination with Afghan Security Forces, informed local residents and blocked off the area before conducting these airstrikes to ensure their safety."

Two Afghan civilians were killed and more than 70 civilians were wounded during the attack claimed by the Taliban this afternoon, according to the Ministry of Interior.

The attack near Bagram Airfield is just the latest in a long string of attacks the U.S. military installation has experienced since American forces first entered Afghanistan in October 2001. In April, a car bomb detonated outside the base resulting in three U.S. service members being killed. Three other American troops were wounded in the same attack.

Wednesday's attack comes a day after The Washington Post obtained more than 2,000 pages of government documents created by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The damning report details how U.S. officials have for years misled the public about the war in Afghanistan—a war that has claimed the lives of more than 2,400 U.S. service personnel have died in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion began in 2001.

This story will continue to be updated as news becomes available.

Update 12/11/19, 12:44 a.m. EST: This article was updated from its original version with a statement from Resolute Support officials about the attack.

Update 12/11/19, 7:44 a.m. EST: This article was updated to include additional comment from Resolute Support. The headline of this article was updated to reflect new information that the walls of the facility were not breached as initially reported.

Update 12/11/19, 12:47 p.m. EST: This article was updated with additional information from Resolute Support officials and the Georgian Defense Ministry.

Taliban Attack Clinic Near American Bagram Airfield Days After Afghan Peace Talks Restart | U.S.