U.S. Soldier Killed in Afghanistan Amid New Wave of Taliban Violence
The death comes just two weeks after six other U.S. servicemembers were killed in Afghanistan.
American forces managed to evacuate one dead and two wounded U.S. Special Operations soldiers after a firefight in Afghanistan’s Helmand province Tuesday, hours after two previous rescue attempts failed.
The American commandos were accompanying Afghan special forces near the embattled town of Marja when they took fire from Taliban militants. After taking casualties, two U.S. rescue helicopters were dispatched to get the team out, but one struck a wall on landing, and the other was waved off due to heavy fire, according to U.S. officials. That left the American and Afghan forces to continue to fight off the Taliban while caring for their wounded.
It is unclear how long the soldiers had to wait to be pulled out, but U.S. warplanes were dispatched to watch over the group while another attempt was being readied. While the casualties have now been lifted out, American and Afghan forces remain behind to secure the damaged helicopter.
The casualties come after American commandos were rushed to Helmand in recent weeks to try and stem a relentless Taliban assault on many of the province’s main population centers.
The first U.S. casualties of 2016 come just two weeks after six American servicemembers were killed near the sprawling Bagram airfield when a suicide bomber detonated near their vehicle. Overall, 22 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan since the end of combat operations.
Since U.S. and NATO troops ended their combat mission in the country in January 2015, the Taliban have fought hard to regain control over many of their former strongholds, attacking Afghanistan’s security personnel on multiple fronts. As a result of the months-long offensive, Kabul has steadily lost ground, particularly in key districts in Helmand that American and British troops paid a heavy price to take just a few years ago.
Many of the Taliban’s most significant gains have come in the country’s south and east. In Helmand, the insurgents have taken the districts of Musa Qala and Nawzad and are threatening Sangin — the scene of months of bloody fighting by American and British forces. Taliban fighters are also on the doorstep of the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah.
In an effort to stem these losses, U.S. commanders sent special operations teams into Helmand, but the extent of their operations there are unknown. The U.K. also deployed a small team of advisers to the province.
The death of the American commando comes on the heels of an October incident in Iraq where a U.S. Delta Force soldier, Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, 39, was killed in action, the first U.S. combat death in Iraq since 2011. Since then, President Barack Obama has said he would dispatch up to 200 more American commandos to Iraq to begin hitting Islamic State targets across Iraq and Syria.
Photo Credit: U.S. Army