A number of U.S. special operations troops were killed or wounded in fighting in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, U.S. defense officials said.
U.S. Special Operations Forces were conducting a joint operation with Afghan forces Tuesday in Marjah when they were attacked.
The service member who was killed came under fire as part of a train-and-assist mission in Marjah, in Helmand Province, Pentagon Spokesman Peter Cook said.
“We are deeply saddened by this loss”, Brigadier General Wilson Shoffner, spokesman for USA forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement. Cook said two US helicopters were dispatched to the scene to provide medical evacuation for the USA casualties but could not complete the mission.
“We can confirm a USA helicopter has landed in Marjah, Helmand Province, and is experiencing mechanical problems”.
There may still be US troops in the area engaging with enemy forces, Cook said, adding that some Afghan forces were also wounded in the attack. “Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the families and friends of those involved”.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the President had been briefed on the ongoing situation in Afghanistan and the casualties sustained.
Helmand is a traditional stronghold of the Taliban, which controls several districts.
The clash occurred in Marja, a town where a major battle between U.S. Marines and Taliban forces took place five years ago. The deputy governor of the volatile southern province said in December that Helmand could fall to the Taliban after months of heavy fighting. The group has been blamed for regular bloodshed against Afghan forces and the U.S.-led coalition supporting them.
Instead, he allowed for approximately 9,800 troops to remain there through 2015, drawing down to 5,500 by the end of 2016.