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ISIS Suicide Bomber Kills 4 Americans In Syria
An ISIS suicide bomber killed four Americans in Manbij, Syria, on Wednesday.
The terror group claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news agency, which it said was done by a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest. Initial reports said more than a dozen people were killed in the blast.
Two American service members, one DoD civilian, and one DoD contractor were killed in the blast, according to U.S. Central Command. Three more service members were injured.
"An explosion hit near a restaurant, targeting the Americans, and there were some forces for the Manbij Military Council with them," one witness told Reuters.
Army Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, confirmed that U.S. troops were killed "during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria."
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan read a statement about the attack during his meeting Wednesday with Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya.
"Allow me to extend on behalf of the Department of Defense, our thoughts and prayers to the families and team members of those killed and wounded during today's attack in Manbij," Shanahan said. "Our fight against terrorism is ongoing and we will remain vigilant and committed to its destruction."
"Today is a stark reminder of the dangerous missions that men and women in uniform perform on our behalf each and every day."
Shanahan did not answer a question from Task & Purpose about whether the Manbij attack would affect the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, which President Donald Trump announced in December – prompting former Defense Secretary James Mattis to resign the following day.
Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday that both he and President Trump condemn the attack against U.S. troops in Manbij.
"Our hearts are with the loved ones of the fallen," Pence said in a statement. "We honor their memory and we will never forget their service and sacrifice.
"Thanks to the courage of our armed forces, we have crushed the ISIS caliphate and devastated its capabilities. As we begin to bring our troops home, the American people can be assured, for the sake of our soldiers, their families, and our nation, we will never allow the remnants of ISIS to reestablish their evil and murderous caliphate – not now, not ever."
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters the president has been briefed on the attack and referred questions to the Pentagon. In a statement, Sanders said, "our deepest sympathies and love go out to the families of the brave American heroes who were killed today in Syria. We also pray for the soldiers who were wounded in the attack. Our service members and their families have all sacrificed so much for our country."
Master Sgt. Jonathan J. Dunbar – reportedly a member of the Army's elite Delta Force – and a British service member were killed on March 30, 2018 in Manbij. Dunbar was on a mission to capture or kill an ISIS member when an improvised explosive device went off.
"ISIS has a network of sleeper cells across formerly ISIS-held terrain and is activating them as part of a planned resurgence," Jennifer Cafarella, of the Institute for Understanding War think tank, told Task & Purpose. "ISIS's attack in Manbij demonstrates the threat ISIS poses in its insurgent form and foreshadows the resurgence that will occur as security gaps grow after an American withdrawal."
UPDATE: This story was updated at 2:45 p.m. on Jan. 16 with comments from Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Vice President Mike Pence.
This post will be updated as we learn more.
(Reuters) - In the summer of 2004, U.S. soldier Greg Walker drove to a checkpoint just outside of Baghdad's Green Zone with his Kurdish bodyguard, Azaz. When he stepped out of his SUV, three Iraqi guards turned him around at gunpoint.
As he walked back to the vehicle, he heard an AK-47 being racked and a hail of cursing in Arabic and Kurdish. He turned to see Azaz facing off with the Iraqis.
"Let us through or I'll kill you all," Walker recalled his Kurdish bodyguard telling the Iraqi soldiers, who he described as "terrified."
He thought to himself: "This is the kind of ally and friend I want."
The US military quietly pulled 2,000 troops out of Afghanistan over the past year without a peace deal
The U.S. military has pulled about 2,000 troops from Afghanistan over the past year, the top U.S. and coalition military commander said Monday.
"As we work in Afghanistan with our partners, we're always looking to optimize the force," Army Gen. Austin Miller said at a news conference in Kabul. "Unbeknownst to the public, as part of our optimization … we reduced our authorized strength by 2,000 here."
"I'm confident that we have the right capabilities to: 1. Reach our objectives as well as continue train, advise, and assist throughout the country," Miller continued.
The New York Times was first to report that the U.S. military had reduced its troop strength in Afghanistan even though peace talks with the Taliban are on hiatus. The number of troops in the country has gone from about 15,000 to 13,000, a U.S. official told Task & Purpose on condition of anonymity.
Separately, the U.S. military is considering drawing down further to 8,600 troops in Afghanistan as part of a broader political agreement, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters on Oct. 19.
"We've always said, that it'll be conditions based, but we're confident that we can go down to 8,600 without affecting our [counterterrorism] operations, if you will," Esper said while enroute to Afghanistan.
So far, no order has been given to draw down to 8,600 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the U.S. official said.
After President Donald Trump cancelled peace talks with the Taliban, which had been expected to take place at Camp David around the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. military has increased both air and ground attacks.
In September, U.S. military aircraft dropped more ordnance in Afghanistan than they have since October 2010, according to Air Force statistics.
However, the president has also repeatedly vowed to bring U.S. troops home from the post 9/11 wars. Most recently, he approved withdrawing most U.S. troops from Syria.
On Monday, Esper said the situations in Syria and Afghanistan are very different, so the Afghans and other U.S. allies "should not misinterpret our actions in the recent week or so with regard to Syria."
DOHUK, Iraq/KABUL (Reuters) - The Pentagon is considering keeping some U.S. troops near oilfields in northeastern Syria alongside Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to help deny oil to Islamic State militants, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday.
U.S. troops are crossing into Iraq as part of a broader withdrawal from Syria ordered by President Donald Trump, a decision that allowed Turkey to launch an offensive against the SDF which for years was a U.S. ally battling Islamic State.