Secretary of Defense James Mattis addressed the media on Friday to honor the lives of two Army Rangers that died during a raid on an ISIS-K compound in Afghanistan on Thursday. The joint-operation saw participation from forty Army Rangers and as many as fifty Afghan commandos, and initial reports from the Pentagon have suggested that their deaths may have been the result of friendly fire.
“Fighting alongside their Afghan partners, Josh and Cameron proved themselves willing to go into danger and impose a brutal cost on enemies in their path,” Mattis said.
Sergeant Joshua P. Rodgers, 22, of Bloomington, Illinois, and Sergeant Cameron H. Thomas, 23, of Kettering, Ohio, whom Mattis referred to by first name in Mattis’ statements, were participating in a raid conducted in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan; the same region the U.S. recently executed a MOAB strike (GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb) to destroy a subterranean complex housing nearly a hundred ISIS fighters. Weeks ago, another Army Special Operations soldier was killed in the same region after being ambushed by terrorists hiding within the tunnel system.
“The families and fellow Rangers of Sgt. Joshua ‘Josh’ Rodgers and Sgt. Cameron Thomas have my respect and sympathies,” Mattis said.
“They carried out their operation against [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan] in Afghanistan before making the ultimate sacrifice to defend our nation and our freedoms,” Mattis said. “Our nation owes them an irredeemable debt, and we give our deepest condolences to their families.”
General Joseph L. Votel, Commander of U.S. Central Command that oversaw the operation also released a brief statement, echoing the Defense Secretary’s sentiments regarding the heroism of Rodgers and Thomas in their final moments.
“On behalf of U.S. Central Command, we extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of two of our elite service members, Sgt. Joshua P. Rodgers and Sgt. Cameron H. Thomas, who died while in service to our country during dismounted operations this week in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.” The statement read.
“These two U.S. Army Rangers’ dedication to selfless service on behalf of our nation will not be forgotten.”
Despite the tragic loss of Rodgers and Thomas, the raid was ultimately a success, killing a number of ISIS-K fighters and neutralizing members of the regional leadership. The target of the raid was Abdul Hasib, leader of ISIS-K in Afghanistan and although it has not been officially confirmed that he was among the dead, Captain Jeff Davis, the Pentagon’s director of press operations, told reporters that officials believe he was.
“U.S. Special Operations Forces killed several senior ISIS-K leaders along with about 35 ISIS operatives, which should significantly degrade ISIS-K operations and help to destroy the ISIS-K affiliate that’s there,” Davis said.
According to Davis, the Rangers and Afghan commandos that arrived on scene received fire from “360 degrees,” and called in air support to assist. The ensuing firefight went on for over three hours, with Rodgers and Thomas succumbing to their wounds in the initial moments of the fight.
“The performance of the Afghan Special Security Forces and our Army Rangers was exemplary,” U.S. Forces Afghanistan officials said in a statement.
“Operating in the most difficult terrain and under complex circumstances, the forces were able to accomplish their mission while protecting the women and children in the compound.”
Image courtesy of the U.S. Air Force