An American Service member was killed and two others wounded Tuesday in southern Afghanistan’s restive Helmand province, where an American medevac helicopter reportedly went down, according to the U.S. and NATO forces.
Citing an unnamed U.S. defense officials, NBC News reports that the U.S. Special Operations Forces were involved in a counterterrorism operation when they came under attack in the Marjah area of the volatile Helmand province.
BREAKING: US medevac helicopter responding to wounded US special forces has gone down in Afghanistan, Defense officials tell @NBCNews.
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) January 5, 2016
Helmand is a longstanding Taliban stronghold and has been one of the deadliest areas for American, NATO, and Afghan forces since the U.S.-led invasion in October 2001.
A Taliban spokesman claimed the terrorist group shot down an American helicopter during the battle in Helmand, a major source of most of the town of opium the jihadist organizations uses to fund its movement.
Although NBC News reports that the U.S. medevac chopper came under mortar and small arms fire, a spokesman for the U.S./NATO Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan said the aircraft was not shot down.
The U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A), Pentagon headquarters, and the Resolute Support mission did not immediately respond to Breitbart News’ request for comment on whether the helicopter had been hit by enemy fire or whether any of the casualties were sustained when it landed in Marjah.
Khaama Press quotes a local anonymous security official as saying that the American helicopter went down in an area in Helmand where Taliban terrorists are known to be operate.
“We can confirm a U.S. helicopter has landed in Marjah, Helmand Province, and is experiencing mechanical problems. It was not shot down,” said U.S. Army Col. Michael Lawhorn, director of the Resolute Support public affairs office, in a statement.
“We are deeply saddened by this loss,” added Brig. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, a spokesman for USFOR-A, in a separate statement. “On behalf of General [John] Campbell, [top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan], and all of USFOR-A, our heartfelt sympathies go out to the families and friends of those involved.”
None of the casualties have been identified yet.
According to the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, the U.S. service member who died succumbed to wounds sustained during operations near Marjah.
“The incident took place in Marjah district where military operations are ongoing to suppress the growing insurgency activities of the anti-government armed militants,” reports Khaama Press.
“This comes as coalition forces have also been deployed to support to the Afghan forces after Taliban militants launched a major offensive to take control of key districts [in Helmand] including Sangin during the recent weeks,” adds the report.
Tuesday’s incident is reportedly the second involving a helicopter crash in less than a week.
An Afghan Army helicopter reportedly crashed earlier in eastern Afghanistan’s Logar province, resulting in at least four fatalities.
“For more than six months, Helmand has been the scene of battles between insurgents and security forces that have complained of being abandoned by the U.S.-backed Afghan government,” reports Reuters. “The deputy governor of the volatile southern province said in December that Helmand could fall to the Taliban after months of heavy fighting.”
“U.S. special operations forces have been reported to have taken part in fighting in Helmand in recent weeks,” it adds. “NATO headquarters in Kabul has not confirmed the reports.”
The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), which include military, police, and militia units, are supposed to be in the lead of security operations in Afghanistan.
However, a Pentagon report released last month, which highlights deteriorating security conditions in Afghanistan, found that ANDSF performance in recent months “has been uneven and mixed.”
President Obama and NATO ended their combat mission in December 2014 and transitioned to a train, advise, and assist (TAA) role. The U.S. military’s footprint in Afghanistan has been dramatically reduced to nearly 9,800, a number that will be further cut to 5,500 by the end of 2016.
“The Taliban-led insurgency has likely been emboldened by the coalition’s transition from direct combat operations to a TAA role and the accompanying reduction of coalition combat enablers,” declared the Pentagon report. “As a result, the Taliban will continue to test the ANDSF aggressively in 2016.”
Unlike previous years when the winter sees a reduction in insurgent violence, Afghanistan has experienced a tense and violent start to 2016.
“The Taliban claimed responsibility for a Monday car bomb attack on a compound for civilian contractors near the Kabul airport, hours after another suicide bomber blew himself up. And on Friday, a suicide bomber attacked a French restaurant popular with foreigners in Kabul, killing two people and injuring 18 others,” reports NBC News.
On Dec. 21, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing near Bagram Air Base, the largest U.S. military facility in Afghanistan, that left six U.S. troops dead and two others wounded. An American contractor and an Afghan were also injured.