Pentagon identifies Army specialist killed in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON — A 22-year-old soldier from Colorado serving his first combat deployment was identified Tuesday as the American servicemember killed in action one day earlier in eastern Afghanistan.
Army Spc. Gabriel D. Conde of Loveland, Colo., was killed by small arms fire during a firefight in the Tagab district in Kapisa province, the Pentagon said Tuesday in a prepared statement. Conde was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.
Pentagon officials described Conde’s death as occurring during a combat operation but declined to provide details about the mission’s objective or which group was responsible for the soldier’s death. They said his death was under investigation.
U.S. military officials in Afghanistan did not respond to a request for information about the operation in which Conde was killed.
One other American soldier was wounded in the engagement. That soldier was reported in stable condition at Bagram Air Field following the battle and was expected to survive his injuries. Several Afghan troops were also killed or injured in the attack, officials with the U.S.-led NATO coalition in Afghanistan said Monday.
The roughly 15,000 American forces in Afghanistan have two primary missions – training and advising Afghan forces to fight the Taliban and a counterterrorism mission in which U.S. troops routinely accompany Afghan commandos on operations against groups including the Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate.
The location of Conde’s death would appear to indicate the engagement likely occurred with Taliban fighters, as ISIS’ influence is primarily confined to Nangarhar province farther south and east than Kapisa, in the mountains bordering Pakistan.
Tagab district was considered as contested by U.S. and NATO military officials in January 2018, according to an assessment of the 17-year-old war released Monday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Contested districts are neither under the full control of the Afghan government nor the Taliban.
An infantryman serving his first overseas tour, Conde enlisted in the Army in August 2015, according to his service biography. He joined his unit in Alaska in April 2016 and deployed to Afghanistan in September 2017. He was due home next month upon completion of his unit’s nine-month tour.
Conde was a 2014 graduate of Berthoud High School in northern Colorado, according to the Loveland Reporter-Herald newspaper. He ran track and cross country as a student and attended the Colorado School of Mines university for a year before he enlisted, the newspaper reported.
Conde’s family members told a local television station that he was adventurous, spending time in the outdoors and had spent time in Mexico helping villagers grow food and construct playground equipment.
The soldiers’ father, Bob Conde, described him as having “a calling to be a warrior.”
His mother, Donna, said she told her son to return home alive the last time she spoke with him.
“He said, 'Don`t worry Mom, I will,'" Donna Conde told Denver’s Fox 31 KDVR. “I feel very proud of who he is. He is the kind of son any mother would be proud to have.”
Family and friends also spoke about Conde’s death on social media.
He died “doing what he wanted to do. Fight for his country and our freedoms,” a relative wrote Tuesday in a public Facebook post.
“He was a very special young man only 22 years old,” wrote Kathy Conde, who identified herself as his aunt. “Wanted to serve his country. He was an amazing individual that loved life and God.”
His death came on the same day as ISIS militants launched a twin-bombing attack on the Afghanistan capital of Kabul, killing at least 25 people. That death toll included nine journalists who were killed when the second bomber blew himself up just outside the scene of the first explosion. Police officials said the bomber had posed as a television cameraman before the suicide attack.
A 10th journalist was killed Monday in eastern Afghanistan’s Khost province. A BBC reporter was shot dead by a group of armed men, the British news organization reported. Police had not identified a motive or suspect in that attack as of Tuesday.
In southern Afghanistan, eight NATO coalition troops were wounded in an attack using a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device in Helmand province. Coalition officials said the Taliban was responsible for that attack, and local officials told Stars and Stripes that the wounded soldiers included Romanian troops.
Conde was the second U.S. servicemember killed in action in Afghanistan in 2018. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mihail Golin, a Green Beret, was killed by small arms fire in an engagement in eastern Nangarhar province with ISIS fighters in early January.
Conde's death was at least the second in his unit during this deployment.
Staff Sgt. David Thomas Brabander, also assigned to 3rd Battalion 509th Infantry Regiment, was killed Dec. 11, 2017 in a non-combat vehicle accident in Nangarhar, the Pentagon said at the time.