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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A frontline U.S. military base in southwest Afghanistan was the scene of a wild gun battle Saturday morning, initiated by Taliban insurgents against a private Afghan security convoy, but which quickly drew in Afghan National Army troops and U.S. soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division.

The gun battle lasted nearly an hour-and-a-half with Afghan National Army soldiers and armed contractors from the private Afghan security firm known as Compass, shooting light machines guns from the hip, Rambo-style and indiscriminately, across a wide open field where the initial Taliban attack began.

The fighting started when insurgents fired a rocket-propelled grenade into what appeared to be a large sports utility vehicle belonging to Compass. The destroyed vehicle was left burning about a quarter mile from the front gate of Forward Operating Base Howz-e-Madad, a rapidly expanding, U.S. military compound in the Zhari District of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.

Compass, which is contracted to protect trucks transporting materials to U.S. military installations in the region, is routinely targeted by Taliban insurgents, even more so than U.S. and Afghan troops, according to Lt. Col. Peter Benchoff, commander of the 2-502nd, part of the 101st Airborne Division.

Because of the indiscriminate firing by both Compass security personnel and Afghan army soldiers, some of which in several instances nearly hit passing civilian vehicles, Benchoff, concerned about potential civilian casualties, sent a quick reaction force out of the base in heavily armored vehicles to try to diffuse the situation.

But when the base itself was targeted by the Taliban, U.S. soldiers had to return fire.

No American soldiers were killed or wounded in the attack, but at least one Compass contractor was injured.

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