KABUL – Television footage broadcast Tuesday showed insurgents handling what appears to be U.S. ammunition in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan that American forces left last month following a deadly firefight that killed eight troops.
The U.S. military said the forces that left the area said they removed and accounted for their equipment.
Al-Jazeera broadcast video showing insurgents handling weapons, including anti-personnel mines with U.S. markings on them. The television station reported that insurgents said they seized the weapons from two U.S. remote outposts in Nuristan province. It was unclear when the video was filmed.
The ammunition could be used against U.S. and Afghan forces, although the amount shown was not extensive. However, the footage will no doubt be used by insurgent propagandists to promote their ``victory" over the Americans and encourage their supporters.
Nuristan was the site of an Oct. 3 battle in which some 200 fighters bombarded a joint U.S.-Afghan army outpost with small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar shells. Eight U.S. troops died – as well as three Afghan soldiers – in one of the heaviest losses of U.S. life in a single battle since the war began.
Lt. Col. Todd Vician, a spokesman for NATO forces, said the material in the footage "appears to be U.S. equipment." He said it was unclear how the insurgents got the weapons.
"It's debatable whether they got them from that location," Vician said, referring to the mountainous Kamdesh district of Nuristan where the nearly six-hour battle took place.
But Gen. Mohammad Qassim Jangulbagh, provincial police chief in Nuristan, said, "The Americans left ammunition at the base."
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Three American platoons were deployed at the two posts, mostly troops from Task Force Mountain Warrior of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Carson, Colorado.
The U.S. destroyed most of the ammunition, but some of it fell into the hands of insurgents, Jangulbagh said.
After the attack, the Pentagon said the isolated post in Nuristan was on a list of far-flung bases that U.S. war commanders had decided were not worth keeping. The Pentagon said that decision was on the books before the assault – part of plans by top U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal to shut down such isolated strongholds and focus on more heavily populated areas as part of a new strategy to protect Afghan civilians.
Jangulbagh lamented the pullback of U.S. forces from the outposts. "Unfortunately, only the police are in Nuristan. There are no foreign troops," he said.
Farooq Khan, a spokesman for the Afghan National Police in Nuristan province, also said U.S. forces left behind arms and ammunition when they left the area, which he said is now in insurgent hands.
However, Gen. Shir Mohammad Karimi, chief of operations for the Afghan Defence Ministry, was skeptical.
"As far as I know, nothing was left behind," Karimi said.