The Pentagon has announced that a US Army Special Forces operator was killed in action on Saturday conducting counter-terrorism operations.

The soldier, who hasn’t been identified yet pending notification of next of kin was the first US combat death in Afghanistan in 2017. Since the US has ceased major combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014 and put the onus on Afghan units that the US has trained, combat casualties numbers have fallen sharply.

The soldier was mortally wounded while helping Afghan forces conduct operations against Khorasan, the local branch of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Navy Capt. Bill Salvin, a spokesman for the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, told CNN.

The commander of US forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John W. Nicholson, offered “deepest condolences to the family and friends of our fallen comrade” on behalf of all US forces there. “We will always remember our fallen comrades and commit ourselves to deliver on their sacrifice.”

US troops regularly perform counterterrorism operations against the ISIS affiliate, which has a presence in Nangarhar Province, where the soldier was killed. Those operations are sometimes carried out in conjunction with Afghan forces.

Nangahar Province is thought to be the center of ISIS militancy and borders Pakistan. The US has conducted numerous airstrikes in the area. ISIS has struggled to gather a political base and indigenous support and clash with the Taliban as well as the US.

There is thought to be between 1000-5000 ISIS fighters in Afghanistan. The US counterterrorism mission is separate from the NATO-led effort to train, advise and assist the Afghan army and police force. There are approximately 8400 US troops currently in Afghanistan and Special Operations Forces are doing the brunt of the fighting with the Afghan allies.

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Photo courtesy of DOD