The identities of the two Army Rangers killed fighting the Islamic State in Afghanistan on Thursday were revealed by the Department of Defense on Friday, as were details indicating the possibility that their deaths may have been the result of friendly fire.
According to a Pentagon press release, Sergeant Joshua P. Rodgers, 22, of Bloomington, Illinois, and Sergeant Cameron H. Thomas, 23, of Kettering, Ohio were the two Rangers killed during a raid on an ISIS compound in the Achin District of Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan. Both soldiers hailed from 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, out of Fort Benning, Georgia.
The mere loss of two highly trained American heroes would be tragic enough, but a statement made by Defense Department spokesman, Navy Captain Jeff Davis, to the New York Times indicated that Rodgers and Thomas may have actually been killed by friendly fire.
According to reports, the raid on the ISIS compound began just after 10:30PM local time and saw participation from as many as fifty American Army Rangers and an additional forty Afghan commandos. The assault force was met with heavy resistance right from the outset, and both Rangers were killed in the initial minutes of what developed into a fierce three-hour firefight. Air support was called in during the raid from AC-130 gunships, Apache attack helicopters and F-16 fighters, according to Davis.
Davis did not indicate whether the friendly fire may have come from fellow Rangers or from the Afghan commandos fighting alongside them, but he did specify that the incident did not appear to be deliberate. An investigation into what happened has already been launched, according to Davis’ statement.
Despite the tragic loss of two of America’s elite special operations soldiers, the raid was ultimately a success, killing as many as thirty-five enemy fighters before the dust finally settled. Unconfirmed reports indicate the target of the raid was the head of ISIS-K, or the Afghanistan affiliate of the terrorist organization, and that heavy resistance was expected. Officials say they suspect the target was killed, but have yet to receive formal confirmation.
The fight with ISIS-K has garnered headlines in recent weeks, after another Special Operations soldier, Staff Sergeant Mark De Alencar, 37, of Edgewood, Maryland was killed in an ambush on April 8th in the Nangarhar Province. Alencar’s unit, hailing from 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, was attacked by ISIS fighters that emerged from tunnels connected to a larger subterranean complex. That complex was then the site of the first ever combat deployment of the GBU-43/B, or MOAB; the largest non-nuclear ordinance in the U.S. military arsenal.
The MOAB strike is said to have killed as many as 94 ISIS fighters, including a number of members of the ISIS-K command element.
Fighting in Afghanistan has been raging since 2001, but saw a significant reduction in American troops involved in 2014 when the Afghan government assumed responsibility for ongoing operations against the Taliban and ISIS. Since then, only about 8,400 American troops have been deployed to the region, with as many as three thousand additional NATO troops. Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of the Resolute Support mission as well as all U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has gone on record requesting additional troops from either the United States or other NATO allies in order to end what he referred to as a “stalemate” between coalition forces and terrorist extremists.
Image courtesy of the Army Times