- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2017

A pair of American soldiers were killed and a third was wounded in Afghanistan during an operation against Islamic State’s faction in the country.

The U.S. forces were participating in an Afghan-led raid against known targets tied to Islamic State in Syria and the Levant - Khorasan Group, or ISIL-K, in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province when the team was ambushed by insurgent fighters.

During the ensuing gun battle, the Americans were hit with two succumbing to their injuries. The Pentagon has yet to publicly identify the casualties or which branch of service they belonged.

“The fight against [ISIL-K] is important for the world,” Gen. John Nicholson, the to U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

“Sadly, it is not without its sacrifices,” he added.

The upcoming fighting season “is going to be another tough year for the valiant Afghan security forces and the international troops who have stood, and will continue to stand, shoulder to shoulder with Afghanistan against terrorism,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said during a surprise visit in Kabul Monday.

Wednesday’s deaths come amid an uptick by Afghan security forces and their U.S. and coalition counterparts to flush out ISIL-K from its redoubts in Nangahar and elsewhere in eastern Afghanistan.

Prior to Wednesday’s attack, U.S. forces had used one of the most powerful, non-nuclear weapons in the American arsenal against ISIL-K targets in Nangahar.

It was the first time the 22,000-pound munition, dubbed the “mother of all bombs,” had ever been used in live combat.

Its use has raised doubts over the overall direction of the war, with critics questioning why U.S. commanders were forced to use a weapon of that magnitude in a conflict that American and Afghan forces have been fighting for nearly two decades.

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