2 battalions looking for missing sailors in Afghanistan

Washington Post:

One U.S. Navy service member was killed in a shoot-out with Taliban insurgents in Logar province and the other is alive and in insurgent custody, a Taliban spokesman and Afghan officials said on Sunday.

NATO officials have not confirmed these reports and still characterize the two men as missing since they drove off their Kabul base Friday.

On the second full day of the search for the missing Americans, Afghan officials said U.S. forces have deployed from helicopters, set up checkpoints to search cars, and were going house to house looking for their missing comrades in Logar province. Afghan army officials said that they have two battalions involved in the search while U.S. military officials did not specify the size of their search operation.

"There is a tremendous amount of effort going on to find them," Adml. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told reporters in Kabul. "We have a large number of forces focused on the return of these two service members."

Afghan police and army commanders in Logar said in telephone interviews that U.S. troops have recovered the bodies of one of the sailors and are searching cars and houses for the surviving one. Brigadier Gul, the commander of an Afghan battalion in Logar, said U.S. troops have distributed a photograph of the two men in the province along with a number to call for information. He described the two men as white males who appeared to be more than 40 years old.

"So far, we haven't received any calls," Gul said.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, along with Afghan officials, said that the two Americans were passing through Charkh district in an armored SUV on Friday evening when they were stopped by Taliban fighters.

"We wanted to arrest them alive. But they showed resistance. And the mujahediin fired back," Mujahid said. "We still have one of them with us."

About 15 insurgents took part in the attack on the SUV, Mujahid said. They fired Kalashnikov rifles and later torched the vehicle. Samer Gul Rashid, the Charkh district chief, said that U.S. and Afghan forces found the body of one of the soldiers in a garden known as Qala-e-now, and that U.S. troops have the body. He added that the surviving American was slightly injured in the hand, although Mujahid denied that he was hurt.

There is an obvious reason why they resisted capture. The Taliban have a history of beheading captives violation of the Geneva Conventions. In this case the Taliban may want to exchange the captive for some of their own that are held by the US and Afghanistan. In the coming days perhaps we will find out what kind of jobs these sailors had in the Afghan capital. Perhaps then we will not what they were doing wandering off on their own.


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