As the Taliban continues to press its offensive in Helmand, the US military announced that it has deployed more than 100 troops to Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern Afghan province that has been under siege for months. The US troops are installed under the guise of Resolute Support’s “Train, Advise, Assist” mission to support Afghan troops, however these troops are often in direct combat with the Taliban. Today, US Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) announced that one soldier was killed and another was wounded in an IED attack while patrolling in the province. From the USFOR-A press release:
One US service member died as a result of wounds sustained during operations near Lashkar Gar in Helmand Province today.
Another US member was wounded and is currently in stable condition. Additionally, six Afghan soldiers were wounded.
“On behalf of all of US Forces – Afghanistan, as well as Resolute Support, our deepest sympathies go out to the families and friends of those involved,” said General John W. Nicholson, commander of USFOR-A and Resolute Support, “We are deeply saddened by this loss, but remain committed to helping our Afghan partners provide a brighter future for themselves and their children.”
The service member was killed conducting Train, Advise, Assist activities with Afghan counterparts under NATO authorities when their patrol triggered an Improvised Explosive Device. An investigation is being conducted to determine the exact circumstances of the event.
US Department of Defense Policy is to withhold the identity of the service member pending next-of-kin notification. We will release additional information as appropriate.
The US has deployed troops in Helmand as part of an effort to prevent the Taliban from taking Lashkar Gah. Despite the positioning of US ground forces and increased airstrikes, the Taliban are known to currently control five of Helmand 14 districts, and contest seven more. [See Threat Matrix report, Helmand capital ‘practically besieged’ by the Taliban.]
Afghan officials paint a bleak picture of Helmand, and have stated the government is painting a rosy picture of the situation in Helmand. From The Associated Press:
The head of Helmand’s provincial council, Kareem Atal, told The Associated Press that battles were underway “on several fronts” in the province, closing off roads and highways.
“Around 80% of the province is under the control of the insurgents,” he said. “There are a number of districts that the government claims are under their control, but the government is only present in the district administrative center and all around are under the control of the insurgents.”
The security problems in Afghanistan are not the least bit isolated in Helmand province. The Taliban has also pressed offensives in the north, west, and east, and the Afghan military is struggling to contain it, despite limited US military support. Kunduz, which fell to the Taliban for two weeks in September 2015, is again threatened. If the Taliban continues to accumulate wins on multiple fronts over the next year, the Afghan military is going to be forced to abandon one or more regions so it can attempt to defend the areas it deems most important.
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