The US’s First Combat Loss Of 2018 May Be A Sign Of More To Come

Analysis
Pfc. Poff, a 3rd Cavalry Regiment soldier assigned to the Train, Advise, Assist Command – East advisory team security force, keeps watch from behind a position of cover in a rural area adjacent to the the Nangarhar police Regional Logistics Center during an advising trip Jan. 6, 2015.
US Army

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.

On July 17, Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal briefly met with President Donald Trump at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina to discuss the eponymous legislation that would finally allow victims of military medical malpractice to sue the U.S. government.

A Green Beret with terminal lung cancer, Stayskal has spent the last year fighting to change the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 Supreme Court precedent that bars service members like him from suing the government for negligence or wrongdoing.

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Esper is expected to be sworn in as defense secretary later on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters.

"We are grateful for the Senate leadership and the Senate Armed Services Committee's willingness to quickly move through this process," Hoffman said.

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(Paramount Pictures via YouTube)

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But it also made us wonder something else: Why is Maverick still flying combat missions in an F/A-18 Super Hornet as a 57-year-old captain after more than 30 years of service?

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(Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

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(KCNA via Reuters)

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Kim inspected the operational and tactical data and combat weapon systems of the submarine that was built under "his special attention", and will be operational in the waters off the east coast, KCNA said.

It said the submarine's operational deployment was near.

"The operational capacity of a submarine is an important component in national defense of our country bounded on its east and west by sea," Kim said.

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