The U.S. military’s combat casualties in Afghanistan were the highest in five years, and Army service members bore the brunt of those losses.
The number of U.S. casualties, to say nothing of Afghan civilians killed by collateral damage from all sides, trends upwards as the war heads into a new decade.
Soldiers accounted for 14 of the Defense Department’s 17 hostile deaths in Afghanistan, according to Pentagon figures as of Dec. 23. The other three were Marines. Of the more than 180 service members wounded in Afghanistan this year, 173 were soldiers.
In 2018, there were 13 hostile deaths in Afghanistan, 12 of whom were soldiers, according to the Pentagon data-set. In 2017, there were 11 hostile deaths, all of whom were soldiers. And in 2016, there were nine hostile deaths, all of whom were again soldiers. In 2015, there were 10 hostile deaths — two were soldiers and the rest were airmen.
One paratrooper was killed by an IED blast near Bagram Air Base, while the other two were killed in what was reported as an insider attack at the time.
The casualties are the highest since the mission to Afghanistan scaled down in 2015 and changed names from Operation Enduring Freedom to Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
The previous highest annual death toll for U.S. troops since the new mission began was reached last year. In 2014, roughly 40 U.S. troops were killed.
This September, peace negotiations between the Taliban and U.S. diplomats broke down after an uptick in Taliban violence prompted President Donald Trump to halt the talks. However, the president said in November that the talks had resumed to some degree and promised an eventual U.S. withdrawal.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.