This article has been updated, 3:36 PM Jan. 4, 2016.
WASHINGTON (Talk Media News) – A U.S. solider was killed and two others wounded during special operations near Marja in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
The service members were conducting a “train, advise and assist” mission with Afghan special operations counterparts when they were attacked by Taliban fire, the Pentagon said. A number of Afghan forces were injured as well, the Pentagon said.
This fire fight is still ongoing, the Pentagon said, including that all situational details are not evident at this time.
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook could not give the status of the two injured service members.
“We are deeply saddened by this loss,” Brig. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement. “Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the families and friends of those involved.”
Two Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk MEDEVAC helicopters arrived at the scene to airlift the wounded and shortly thereafter came under fire. One was waved off and returned safely to base, and the other landed but sustained damage to its rotor blades after striking a wall, rendering it unable to take off, the Pentagon said.
Cook said that Defense Secretary Ash Carter had been in contact with commanders in Afghanistan and was closely monitoring developments.
After 13 years in Afghanistan, the U.S. ended its official combat mission the nation in December 2014, moving to what officials have described as counter-terrorism and train, advise and assist roles. At that time, Afghan forces officially took the lead role in defense operations.
Since then, the Taliban have seen a resurgence in Afghanistan, holding more territory now than the extremist organization has since 2001, according to an analysis by Foreign Policy.
“The situation in Helmand and throughout Afghanistan remains challenging, but we remain confident that the Afghan national security and defense forces are continuing to develop the capabilities and capacity to secure the country against a persistent insurgent threat,” Cook said Tuesday.
“They’re getting better at defending their own country, but they’re not at a point yet where they are able to operate entirely on their own, which is why U.S. forces and other NATO forces are there assisting,” Cook said. “The Afghan forces are moving in the right direction.”
Tuesday’s incident marks the first American casualty in Afghanistan in 2016, according the the website iCasualties.org. In 2015, the website reports, 22 Americans died in service.
Just on Monday the Taliban claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack on a compound for civilian contractors near the Kabul airport, hours after another suicide bomber detonated his vest. And the Friday before, a suicide bomber attacked a restaurant frequented by foreigners in Kabul.
The U.S. currently has 9,800 troops in Afghanistan and, under a recently revised plan, are set to whittle that number down to about 5,500 by the end of 2016.
Cook said that there are no current plans to “change the conduct of U.S. forces” in Afghanistan.
“This is an ongoing conversation with the Secretary and his commanders in the field,” said Cook when asked Tuesday if the troop drawdown plan may change. “We believe we’re on the right course, but this is a constant review.”