U.S. Servicemember Killed in Combat in Afghanistan on New Year’s Day

Afghan Police lead a patrol in southern Afghanistan along with US soldiers. Image Source: Defense Dept
Afghan Police lead a patrol in southern Afghanistan along with US soldiers. Image Source: Defense Dept

A U.S. servicemember was killed and four were wounded during combat on New Year’s Day in eastern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Tuesday.

Two of the wounded servicemembers are hospitalized in stable condition and the other two were returned to duty, the military said.

The engagement took place in Nangarhar province. The Taliban and Islamic State have frequently fought each other in Nangarhar and both have been targeted by sustained U.S. air strikes.

The exact nature of the relationship between the two groups is little understood. There have been isolated incidents in Afghanistan in which the fighters of both appear to have cooperated.

The U.S. military did not release additional details about the engagement, but U.S.-backed Afghan forces have been combating the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our own,” said Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. “At this very difficult time our heartfelt sympathies go out to the families and friends of our fallen and wounded brothers.”

The United States has supported the Afghan government in its fight against ISIS. President Donald Trump last year announced plans to strengthen the US military presence in Afghanistan, signing off on a modest surge of several thousand more US troops. They were primarily tasked with conducting counterterrorism missions and training Afghan security forces.

The decision made Trump the third US President to increase troop levels in Afghanistan and reversed President Barack Obama’s moves to gradually withdraw US troops from the country.

In late Nov., Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, the top commander in Afghanistan, said President Trump’s new Afghanistan policy is a game changer. It is fundamentally different than past efforts and he expresses confidence that we are on our way to a win.

U.S. troops are not engaged in direct combat in Afghanistan, but the Trump administration has authorized an increased number of advisers and expanded airstrikes in support of Afghan forces.

Fifteen Americans were killed in Afghanistan in 2017, according to icasualties.org, a website that tracks casualties.

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Jon Britton
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