US soldier killed in battle with IS in Afghanistan

FILE - In this Saturday, July 15, 2017 file photo, Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, center, commander of the Resolute Support mission and U.S. forces in Afghanistan; outgoing Maj. Gen. Richard G. Kaiser, left, and incoming Maj. Gen. Robin L. Fontes, second left, salute during a change of command ceremony at Resolute Support headquarters, in Kabul, Afghanistan. In an "open letter" to U.S. President Donald Trump, Afghanistan's Taliban on Tuesday reiterated their call for a withdrawal of troops to end the protracted war. (AP Photos/Massoud Hossaini)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An American soldier was killed and several others were wounded in a battle with Islamic State militants in eastern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said.

The military said in a statement that several Afghan forces were also wounded in the fighting on Wednesday in the Achin district of the Nangarhar province, a militant stronghold. It did not specify how many forces were wounded.

And in three southern provinces, Taliban attacks on Wednesday killed a total of three civilians and 15 Afghan policemen, Afghan officials said Thursday.

The Utah National Guard said the American soldier who died was one of its members and that 11 other National Guardsmen were among the wounded. The names were withheld pending notification of family members.

He was clearing a building when a booby trap exploded, killed him and injured the other 11 members of the team, said Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.

The wounded soldiers were evacuated for medical treatment.

The family of the slain solider identified him as Aaron Butler, 27, of Monticello, Utah. His father Randy Butler said in a statement he was a champion high school wrestler who became a Green Beret after graduating from the U.S. Army Special Forces qualification course with honors in 2016.

Islamic State militants have gained a foothold in recent years in Afghanistan, where they have battled U.S.-backed government forces as well as the more established Taliban.

The IS affiliate largely consists of disgruntled former Taliban insurgents, and has clashed with the larger group over leadership and ideology.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a suicide car bomber killed three civilians while trying to attack an Afghan army base in the southern Helmand province late on Wednesday.

Omar Zwak, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the attacker and three other militants approached the base before guards opened fire on them, killing the three who were on foot. Three soldiers were wounded in the blast.

In southern Kandahar province, Taliban fighters stormed police checkpoints in two districts late on Wednesday, killing seven policemen and wounding nine, according to Zia Durani, spokesman for the provincial governor. He said 19 Taliban were killed in the ensuing clashes.

And in southern Zabul province, the Taliban attacked a police base, killing eight policemen.

A police official, Asif Tokhi, said the attack started on Wednesday night, along the Zabul-Kandahar highway, where the base is located.

Fighting there continued into the morning Thursday, he said. Along with the eight killed, three policemen were also wounded, and 12 Taliban fighters were also killed, Tokhi added.

The Taliban made no statements on the latest attacks.

On Tuesday, the Taliban released an “open letter” to President Donald Trump, reiterating their calls for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan after 16 years of war and warning against new U.S. military buildup in Afghanistan.

Trump has so far resisted the Pentagon’s recommendations to send almost 4,000 more to expand training of Afghan military forces and bolster U.S. counterterrorism operations. The deployment has been held up amid broader strategy questions, including how to engage regional powers in an effort to stabilize Afghanistan.