On Monday, a suicide bomber set off an IED that killed three U.S. Marines and wounded several others. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Those Marines killed in the attack have now been identified.

The Taliban suicide bombing of the U.S. convoy just outside of Bagram airbase killed Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman, 43, of Newark, Delaware, Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, 25, of Locust Valley, NY Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, of York Pennsylvania. These were the first Marine Corps deaths in the theater since 2016 when a Marine SSG was killed in a rocket attack by the Islamic State in Iraq.

The three men were from the 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division (Reserve) from Ft. Devens, MA. There was also an Afghan contractor with the Marines who was initially reported as being killed but he was later found wounded and was taken to the hospital and is expected to recover.  Bagram airbase is part of the Bagram district is located in northern Parwan province and serves as the main U.S. air base in the country.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and that one of their suicide bombers detonated his explosives-laden vehicle near the NATO base. Five Afghan civilians were also wounded in the attack.

Slutman was a 15-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department as well as a member of the Kentland Volunteer Fire Department in Maryland. He leaves behind a wife and three daughters.

“Through this trying time, we will remember Chris for the father, husband, brother, son, and friend that he was, the moral character he displayed daily, and the courage and conviction to serve his fellow Americans, both at home and abroad,” the Kentland Volunteer Fire Department wrote on Facebook said on Facebook.

“We ask for your thoughts and prayers for his firehouse brothers, his fellow Marines, his friends – but most of all, his family.”

“Firefighter Slutman bravely wore two uniforms and committed his life to public service both as a New York City Firefighter and as a member of the United States Marine Corps,” said New York Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro. “The hearts and prayers of the entire Department are with his loved ones and with the families of his fellow service members who lost their lives in service to our nation.”

“We feel and mourn the loss of these Americans with their families and loved ones. They volunteered to protect their country. We will continue our mission,” said Gen. Scott Miller, Commanding General of Resolute Support and U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

There are about 14,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan, supporting Afghan forces as they struggle on two fronts — facing a resurgent Taliban who now controls over almost half the country as well as the Islamic State affiliate, which has been trying to expand its influence in Afghanistan, most especially since its self-proclaimed “caliphate” has crumbled in Syria and Iraq.

Prior to Monday’s IED attack, four U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan in 2019. Last year, 13 U.S. troops were killed.

The Taliban and US-led coalition have continued to try to get the upper hand in the fighting which has last for over 17 years. This is despite holding several rounds of peace talks with the United States U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad in recent months. The Taliban, however, has refused to meet with representatives of the Afghan government, who they view as a U.S. puppet.

The Taliban has stated that they will take part in an all-Afghan meeting in Qatar, where they have a political office. However, the Taliban have stated that any government official attending will not be recognized as a legitimate government official but only as an Afghan participant.

Photo: Facebook