Taliban bomber kills 4 Americans at NATO base in Afghanistan

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KABUL, Nov 12 (Reuters) - A Taliban suicide bomber dressed as a laborer blew himself up at the NATO air base at Bagram north of the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday, killing four Americans and wounding at least 17 people, officials said.

Two U.S. military service members and two U.S. contractors were killed, and 16 other U.S. service members were wounded, along with a Polish soldier who was part of the NATO mission, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement.


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"For those who carried out this attack, my message is simple. We will not be deterred in our mission to protect our homeland and help Afghanistan secure its own future," Carter said.

He said the military will investigate what happened to determine what steps could be taken to improve protection for the base.

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Suicide bomber kills 4 at NATO base
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Suicide bomber kills 4 at NATO base
An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier keeps watch near the largest US military base in Bagram, 50km north of Kabul on November 12, 2016. Four people were killed November 12 in an explosion inside the largest US military base in Afghanistan, NATO said, with local officials blaming a suicide attacker posing as a labourer for the major security breach. / AFP / SHAH MARAI (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
An Afghan policeman keeps watch near the largest US military base in Bagram, 50km north of Kabul on November 12, 2016. Four people were killed November 12 in an explosion inside the largest US military base in Afghanistan, NATO said, with local officials blaming a suicide attacker posing as a labourer for the major security breach. / AFP / SHAH MARAI (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
An Afghan policeman stops a tractor driver as security forces block roads near the largest US military base in Bagram, 50km north of Kabul on November 12, 2016. Four people were killed November 12 in an explosion inside the largest US military base in Afghanistan, NATO said, with local officials blaming a suicide attacker posing as a labourer for the major security breach. / AFP / SHAH MARAI (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan security personnel keep watch near the largest US military base in Bagram, 50 km north of Kabul, after an explosion on November 12, 2016. Four people were killed November 12 in an explosion inside the largest US military base in Afghanistan, NATO said, with local officials blaming a suicide attacker posing as a labourer for the major security breach. / AFP / SHAH MARAI (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier stands guard near the the largest US military base in Bagram, 50km north of Kabul, after an explosion on November 12, 2016. Four people were killed November 12 in an explosion inside the largest US military base in Afghanistan, NATO said, with local officials blaming a suicide attacker posing as a labourer for the major security breach. / AFP / SHAH MARAI (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier keeps watch outside the Bagram Airfield entrance gate, after an explosion at the NATO air base, north of Kabul, Afghanistan November 12, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers keep watch outside the Bagram Airfield entrance gate, after an explosion at the NATO air base, north of Kabul, Afghanistan November 12, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers and police keep watch outside the Bagram Airfield entrance gate, after an explosion at the NATO air base, north of Kabul, Afghanistan November 12, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
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The attack, which was claimed by the Taliban, underlines the foreign policy challenge that will face U.S. President-elect Donald Trump when he takes office in January.

President Barack Obama had originally hoped to have all U.S. forces out of the country by the end of his term, but was forced to abandon that goal as Afghan forces struggled to contain the Taliban insurgency.

Under current plans, 8,400 U.S. troops will remain as part of the Resolute Support operation and a separate U.S. counterterrorism mission after Obama decided to slow down a planned reduction of the force, leaving it to his successor to decide future strategy.

Waheed Sediqqi, spokesman for the Parwan provincial governor, said the bomber managed to enter the heavily protected site, the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan, and was standing in a queue with Afghan laborers when he detonated a suicide vest.

The NATO-led Resolute Support mission response teams at the airfield were treating the wounded and investigating the incident.

It follows a suicide attack on the German consulate in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif late on Thursday night that killed four people and wounded more than 100 others. That attack was retaliation for air strikes near the northern city of Kunduz last week which killed more than 30 civilians.

The Taliban's spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said Saturday's attack, which he said had been planned for four months, had caused heavy casualties, killing 23 Americans and wounding 44. The movement often exaggerates the number of casualties caused by its operations.

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