G.I. killed on March 27 in Afghanistan was playing with kids when stabbed by teen

| Monday, April 1, 2013, 6:36 p.m.

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan teenager fatally stabbed an American soldier in the neck as he played with children in eastern Afghanistan, officials said on Monday, as the U.S. death toll rose sharply last month with an uptick in fighting because of warmer weather.

Last week's calculated attack shows that international troops confront myriad dangers even though they are increasingly taking a back seat in operations with Afghan forces ahead of a full withdrawal by the end of 2014.

One U.S. service member was killed in February — a five-year monthly low — but the toll climbed to at least 14 last month.

Overall, the number of Americans and other foreign forces killed in Afghanistan has fallen as their role shifts toward training and advising government troops instead of fighting.

But a series of attacks on foreign troops by insurgents disguised as Afghan troops has threatened to undermine the trust needed to help President Hamid Karzai's government take the lead in securing the country after more than 11 years at war.

In the attack that killed Sgt. Michael Cable, 26, of Philpot, Ky., on Wednesday, soldiers had secured an area for a meeting of U.S. and Afghan officials in a province near the volatile border with Pakistan.

One of two senior U.S. officials who confirmed that Cable had been stabbed said the assailant was not believed to have been in uniform so it was not being classified as an insider attack.

The Pentagon said in a statement last week that Cable died from injuries suffered when his unit was attacked by enemy forces.

Cable's brother Raymond Johnston said the Army told the family the basics of what happened.

Afghan and American dignitaries were attending the swearing-in ceremony of Afghan local police in Nangarhar province, senior district official Zalmai Khan said. Afghan police recruits are drawn from villages and backed by the U.S. military.

The soldier was playing with children outside when the attacker stabbed him with a large knife, Khan said. Other guards nearby didn't notice what had happened because there was no gunshot, and the assailant was able to flee to neighboring Pakistan.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid identified the attacker as a 16-year-old boy who was acting independently when he killed the soldier but had joined the Islamic militant movement since fleeing the scene.

Khan did not confirm the Taliban's claim.

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