The Defense Department says it is looking into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of two U.S. service members killed in a raid on ISIS leaders in eastern Afghanistan this week.
According to a statement released by the headquarters of United States Forces—Afghanistan, "USFOR-A is investigating the possibility that the two Rangers were accidentally killed by friendly fire during the more than three-hour fight. We have informed both of their families of this possibility and we have appointed a team to investigate the Soldiers' deaths."
Preliminary details of the raid against ISIS-Khorasan were reported in the Two-Way yesterday.
The statement added, "We investigate all combat deaths of U.S. service members, and because we believe that there is a possibility of friendly fire in this case, it is appropriate to notify the families. Once the investigation is complete, USFOR-A will provide the results to our chain of command."
The slain soldiers were identified in a subsequent statement issued by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
"The families and fellow Rangers of Sgt. Joshua "Josh" Rodgers and Sgt. Cameron Thomas have my respect and sympathies. Fighting alongside their Afghan partners, Josh and Cameron proved themselves willing to go into danger and impose a brutal cost on enemies in their path. They carried out their operation against ISIS-K in Afghanistan before making the ultimate sacrifice to defend our nation and our freedoms. Our nation owes them an irredeemable debt, and we give our deepest condolences to their families."
The Mattis statement makes no mention of the friendly fire investigation.
The raid targeted an ISIS-K leader named Emir, Abdul Hasib. The USFOR-A statement said two Army Ranger platoons and an equivalent number of Afghan Special Security Forces were dropped by helicopter into the Mohamand Valley in Nangahar Province. They killed several high-level ISIS-K leaders and more than 35 fighters. But the statement says the death of Emir has not yet been confirmed.