An American soldier was killed and two others sustained injuries in fierce fighting between Taliban and US-led government forces in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province. In the past six months, Helmand has witnessed a wave of attacks by Islamic militants, where US troops are assisting Afghan forces to fend off the Taliban from capturing the province.
US Special Forces were accompanying Afghan government security personnel in Marjah town on 5 January, when the attack took place. "US special operators are...allowed to engage and train, advise and assist their special operations counterparts. They've been in Helmand province providing this kind of support in the past," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said.
"My understanding is that there may still be Americans on the ground in this immediate situation engaging with the enemy in support of Afghan forces. This is a fluid situation," Cook added.
Two US HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters were dispatched to provide medical assistance to the injured soldiers. However, one of the helicopters returned to base as Taliban fighters retaliated with heavy fire. The other helicopter suffered some damages when it struck a wall, but landed safely.
In late 2015 the US withdrew most of its ground troops in Afghanistan, but President Barack Obama later said that around 9,800 US soldiers would remain in the country to assist Afghan forces. "We believe we're on the right course. We remain confident in the future of the Afghan government and the Afghan security forces," Cook said.