Two U.S. special operations soldiers were killed on Thursday while participating in a joint US-Afghan operation in the Achin District of Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan, according to a statement by Pentagon Spokesman US Navy Captain Jeff Davis. The joint operation was being conducted against ISIS-K, the terrorist organization’s Afghanistan specific sect.
A third American soldier was wounded in the firefight, but his wounds are classified as non-life threatening. No other details about the operation have been released by Pentagon officials thus far.
The Achin district of Afghanistan has been the site of multiple anti-ISIS operations in recent months, including the widely-reported MOAB strike that saw the largest non-nuclear ordinance in the U.S. arsenal deployed to destroy a cave complex housing nearly one hundred terrorist fighters. The week prior, Staff Sergeant Mark R. De Alencar, a weapons sergeant assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, was killed when his unit was ambushed by hidden ISIS fighters that emerged from the tunnels.
The Afghan government took over the breadth of the responsibility of ongoing fighting with both ISIS-K and the Taliban within their country in 2014, prompting a drawdown of US troops deployed there. There are currently 8,400 or so American servicemen deployed to aid the ongoing fight against Islamic extremists in Afghanistan, many of whom serve as instructors or advisers to Afghan military officials.
A Taliban attack on an Afghan Army base last Friday in the Balkh Province was the deadliest since fighting erupted in Afghanistan more than a decade ago, with a death toll surpassing one hundred Afghan soldiers killed when ten terrorists made their way past defenses by posing as members of the Afghan Army returning with their wounded. They then opened fire on unarmed soldiers returning from prayer or eating in the dining area.
“The dining room and the mosque are close to each other,” Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Qahar Aram, a spokesman for the 209th Corps in Afghanistan said. “It was lunchtime; they entered both the mosque and the dining room.”
American Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, was in Afghanistan earlier this week to meet with the leadership behind NATO’s Operation Resolute Support as well as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. During the meetings, Mattis reaffirmed American support in the country’s ongoing battle against extremism.
“These people have no religious foundation. They are not devout anything, and it shows why we stand with the people of this country against such heinous acts perpetrated by this barbaric enemy and what they do.” Mattis said at the time
“This dictates an ongoing dialogue with Afghanistan’s leadership,” Mattis said earlier this week, “and that’s why I came here: to get with President Ghani and his ministers and hear directly and at length from … General Nicholson to provide my best assessment and advice as we go forward.” The Defense Secretary explained.
Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of the Resolute Support mission as well as all U.S. forces in Afghanistan appeared before Congress in February to ask for additional troops in order to end what has effectively become a “stalemate” between coalition forces and their enemies within ISIS-K and the Taliban.
“Offensive capability is what will break the stalemate in Afghanistan,” Nicholson said at the time as he argued for an increase in troops. His requests entailed the need for more advisors to assist in ground-level units, as opposed to only appointing NATO troops to assist senior leadership as is currently the case in most instances.
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