First U.S. Combat Death in Fight for Mosul
Pentagon officials insist that American forces remain behind the front lines near Mosul, but Thursday’s death calls that into question.
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.
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