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The US’s First Combat Loss Of 2018 May Be A Sign Of More To Come
The U.S. military Tuesday morning announced the death of a service member in a firefight that injured four more American troops in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province on Jan. 1 — the first U.S. combat fatality of 2018, and a stark reminder of the challenges facing U.S. troops in the year ahead.
Details are scant on the engagement that killed the service member, who remains unidentified pending notification of his family. A press release from U.S. Forces-Afghanistan said the attack occurred in Achin, a Pashtun district identified by some local observers as a “headquarters” for ISIS activity in the country.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our own,” Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said in the statement.
Saddened, but not surprised: As ISIS was routed out of its strongholds in Syria and Iraq last year, the crippled organization has shifted back to a franchising-and-insurgency strategy — one that’s made its ragtag Afghan offshoot, ISIS-Khorasan, a serious player in Nangarhar and a serious threat to the U.S. forces hunting its fighters there.
Renewed U.S. engagement in Nangarhar literally began with a bang in 2017. Last April, defense planners made global headlines with their first real-world strike using the “Mother of all Bombs” — the massive ordnance air blast, aka “the mother of all bombs” — one of the largest conventional munitions in the U.S. arsenal. The target: a network of ISIS fighter tunnels in Nangarhar’s Achin district.
Authorities claimed the MOAB killed nearly 100 enemy fighters, but for all the fanfare, it didn’t take ISIS out of the fight: Just two weeks later, two U.S. Army Rangers died in fighting with ISIS combatants near the blast site (reports conflicted on how they perished in the three-hour engagement).
Nor has ISIS been the only threat to U.S. troops in Achin. Last June, three American troops were killed in an apparent insider attack by an Afghan soldier; Taliban forces later took responsibility for that ambush. Of the 11 service members confirmed by the Pentagon as killed in action in Afghanistan last year, at least 7 — all Rangers, Green Berets, or Air Assault soldiers — gave their lives in Nangarhar.
What is the way forward? For now, much of the same. In Nangarhar — as in Syria, Iraq, Niger, and elsewhere — overwhelming U.S. firepower is targeting Islamist fighters; accumulated U.S. know-how is guiding local forces to stand up for themselves; and increasingly elite U.S. troops are putting themselves in danger to make it all work.
Maybe, eventually, it will work. But the payoff of America’s 17-year-old war posture remains unclear, even if the price is obvious — and unchanging.
NAS Pensacola shooter reportedly hosted a 'dinner party' to watch mass shooting videos the night before the attack
The Saudi military officer who shot and killed 3 people at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday reportedly hosted a "dinner party" the night before the attack "to watch videos of mass shootings," the Associated Press reports, citing an unnamed U.S. official.
The Minnesota National Guard has released the names of the three soldiers killed in Thursday's helicopter crash.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
Joshua Kaleb Watson has been identified as one of the victims of a shooting at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, CBS News reported.
The 23-year-old Alabama native and Naval Academy graduate was named to the Academy's prestigious Commandant's and Dean's lists, and also competed on the rifle team, Alabama's WTVY reported.
The Navy pledged Friday to find ways to upgrade security procedures and prevent future attacks following two shootings and a fatal gate runner incident at naval bases in Virginia, Hawaii and Florida in the last week.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper also announced he is "considering several steps to ensure the security of our military installations and the safety of our service members and their families," although he did not give details.
The Navy has identified the two Defense Department civilians who were killed in a shooting Wednesday at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii.