US takes casualties in Helmand fighting

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.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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5 Comments

  • Paddy Singh says:

    The US went into Afghanistan with a fanfare of gusto, thought they had defeated the Taliban and took their statements of ‘a tactical retreat’, with a pinch of salt. The Rambos never read the history of a tired and defeated Greek warrior king, Alexander the Great. After a decade the war tired US then tried, without shame, to get the Taliban to join in a unity government with an enemy, they had defeated soundly, which the Taliban refused. Very soon they will be recognising the Taliban when it forms the government in this ravaged country.

    • Steve Singer says:

      It is too true.

      But the strategic problem remains: how to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a base for Islamic terrorism? How do outsiders force the so-called Taliban not to assist al-Qaeda or other Salafist revoltionary movements, because they will do it.

      Until then, Afghanistan will remain a cockpit of war.

  • Frank Dunn says:

    Last sentence has a haunting similarity to the collapse of South Vietnam. Could easily read:

    If the North Vietnamese Army continues to accumulate wins on multiple fronts over the next year, the South Vietnamese military is going to be forced to abandon one or more regions so it can attempt to defend the areas it deems most important.

  • Moose says:

    The rules of engagement screwed us in this war. This insurgency could have been contained with drones in the air and a smaller, more professional Afghan army backed up by U.S. special forces on the ground. If we were willing to put 100,000 troops entirely along the Af-Pak border, it would have been game over.

    The truth is that this war required more cunning than bullets on our part. Pitting tribes and factions against each other, controlled opposition (Israel’s control of the Abu Nidal Organization was textbook), control over the Afghan government, targeted assassinations against the ISI, etc.

    When I worked for an NGO in Afghanistan, I realized the war was being run by a bunch of Western hipsters and contractors. They should do a remake of Apocalypse Now about Afghanistan.

  • Rick Fortner says:

    The Taliban are not there to install a government…they just want control of the opium and the heroin dollars that come with it. They are just another drug cartel in the world; nothing more. Alexander the Great learned what everyone who has been to Afghanistan has learned….there is nothing there.

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