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Utah guardsman killed battling ISIS in eastern Afghanistan

An Afghan Air Force Mi-17 Helicopter prepares to land at Camp Shorabak, Afghanistan, on Aug. 14, 2017.

LUCAS HOPKINS/U.S. MARINE CORPS

By CHAD GARLAND | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 16, 2017

A U.S. servicemember died Wednesday after being wounded during operations with Afghan forces in eastern Afghanistan, the military said.

The Utah National Guard said the slain soldier was one of its members and several other National Guardsmen were wounded.

“Today we lost one soldier from the Utah National Guard,” Maj. Gen. Burton said, according to news reports. “Initially it was seven wounded, that number has gone up to eleven.”

The wounded were evacuated for treatment, the military said. The servicemembers’ names were withheld pending notification of family members.

The operation was “aimed at further reducing Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan presence” in the country, the military said, referring to the Central Asian Islamic State affiliate also known as ISIS-K.

U.S. forces, as part of a counterterrorism operation, have been assisting the Afghan government in efforts to defeat the group, which has maintained a foothold in eastern Afghan provinces near the border with Pakistan. ISIS-K has conducted several deadly attacks throughout the country this year.

Wednesday’s death is the third U.S. combat fatality this month, following an attack on a NATO convoy in Kandahar province on Aug. 2 that killed two soldiers and wounded four others.

The military did not specify where the operation was being conducted Wednesday, beyond saying it was in eastern Afghanistan. At least six of the other nine combat fatalities so far this year have occurred in eastern Nangarhar province, where troops have been battling ISIS-K in recent months.

In April, U.S. forces dropped the “mother of all bombs” – the largest conventional bomb ever deployed in combat – to destroy a series of Islamic State caves in a mountainous area in that province along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where sustained firefights with ISIS militants had taken place and just days after the first U.S. combat death of the year had occurred.

The U.S. has made it a priority to defeat ISIS-K in Afghanistan this year.

Earlier this week, when the military announced that it had killed a senior leader in the group, Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in the country, said the U.S. “will hunt them down until they are no longer a threat to the Afghan people and the region.”

garland.chad@stripes.com
Twitter: @chadgarland

 

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