KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan teenager fatally stabbed an American soldier in the neck as he played with children in eastern Afghanistan, officials said Monday, as the U.S. death toll rose sharply last month with an uptick in fighting due to warmer weather.
Last week's calculated attack shows that international troops still face a myriad of 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.
Just one U.S. service member was killed in February - a five-year monthly low - but the American death 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 more toward training and advising government troops instead of fighting.
But a series of so-called insider attacks on foreign troops - some 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.
The attack that killed Sgt. Michael Cable, 26, of Philpot, Ky., last Wednesday occurred after the soldiers had secured an area for a meeting of U.S. and Afghan officials in a province near the volatile border with Pakistan.
Cable's brother Raymond Johnston, a 42-year-old waiter in Owensboro, Ky., said the Army told the family the basics of what happened and that his brother was stabbed in the neck from behind.
Johnston said his brother, who also did a tour of duty in Iraq, was "prepared before he left for anything that happened" in Afghanistan.
Cable was playing with children outside when the 16-year-old attacker came from behind and stabbed him in the neck with a large knife, Shinwar District official Zelmai Khan said.
Other guards nearby didn't immediately notice what had happened because there was no gunshot, and the assailant was able to flee to neighboring Pakistan, Khan said.
US Toll in Afghanistan
• Chief Warrant Officer Curtis S. Reagan, 43, of Summerville, S.C.; assigned to the 603rd Aviation Support Battalion, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.
• Sgt. Michael C. Cable, 26, of Philpot, Ky.; assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.
Source: Department of Defense.