- By Paul McLearyPaul McLeary is Foreign Policy’s senior reporter covering the U.S. Defense Department and national security issues. He joined the Washington office in 2015 after working for Defense News, where he was also on the Pentagon beat, and covered stories relating to Pentagon spending and the defense industry. While there, and in a previous incarnation as a New York-based reporter, Paul embedded with U.S. Army and Marine Corps units in Iraq and Afghanistan to cover ground combat operations, where he got inside a secretive drone program being run out of Bagram air base. He has also traveled with the U.S. Navy, covered NATO meetings in Europe with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and stalked major international arms shows in Paris and London.
A U.S. service member was killed in northern Iraq on Thursday when an improvised explosive device detonated as American troops accompanied local forces as they pushed toward Mosul, U.S. Central Command announced.
It was the second combat death suffered by American forces battling the Islamic State this month. On Oct. 6, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Adam Thomas was killed after another improvised bomb went off while his unit was on a foot patrol in Nangarhar, Afghanistan, where U.S. Special Operations forces are fighting ISIS alongside Afghan troops.
Thursday’s fatality was also the fourth American combat death in Iraq since U.S. troops deployed last year, and the second for Centcom in two days. On Wednesday, a service member was killed and two others wounded at a military base in Kabul when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them. That incident is still under investigation.
A defense official told Foreign Policy that Thursday’s attack took place northeast of Mosul, an area where both Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi Counterterrorism Forces began their push toward the city on Thursday morning. It was not clear with which group the U.S. service member was embedded.
Earlier this week, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said that U.S. advisers with Iraqi and Kurdish troops advancing on Mosul are “behind the forward line of troops,” but “it’s safe to say there are Americans on the outskirts of the city.”
There are “over 100” U.S. military advisors on the ground near Mosul with Kurdish and Iraqi forces, spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said earlier this week.
Officials at the Pentagon who asked for anonymity to speak with reporters said that the U.S. advisors on the ground near Mosul are being given some leeway as to how and where they position themselves on the battlefield in order to help direct American artillery and air strikes.
Photo Credit: Emrah Yorulmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images