WASHINGTON, January 5, 2016 —
A U.S. service member was killed and two others were injured today after they came under fire in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter was updated throughout the day on the situation, including through a previously scheduled videoconference with commanders in the Afghan capital of Kabul, Cook said at a news conference.
"His thoughts and prayers are with the family members of those injured and killed in this situation," Cook said.
The U.S. forces came under fire in Marjah while conducting a “train, advise and assist” mission with their Afghan special operations counterparts on the ground, Cook said. A number of Afghan forces were injured as well, he added.
Campbell Offers Condolences
In a statement, the spokesman for U.S. Forces Afghanistan expressed condolences on behalf of Army Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander of the Resolute Support mission and of U.S. Forces Afghanistan.
"We are deeply saddened by this loss," Army Brig. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner said. "On behalf of Gen. Campbell and all of [U.S. Forces Afghanistan], our heartfelt sympathies go out to the families and friends of those involved."
Two HH-60 Pave Hawk medical evacuation helicopters were sent to provide assistance, Cook said. One was waved off after taking fire and returned safely to its base, while the other landed safely but sustained damage to its rotor blades after apparently striking a wall, he said.
U.S. Confident, Challenges Remain
The situation in Helmand and throughout Afghanistan remains challenging, Cook said. The United States is confident the Afghan national security and defense forces are continuing to develop the capabilities and capacity to secure the country against a "persistent insurgent threat," Cook said.
"The U.S. and Afghan governments agree that the best way to ensure lasting peace and security in Afghanistan is through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process," he said.
Today was a difficult day for U.S. forces, and Afghan forces have "suffered greatly" as well, he said.
"This is an ongoing fight," Cook said.
"I think the events of the last few hours in Afghanistan highlight the risks that the Afghan forces are taking every single day, and of course, the risks that the American forces who are there assisting them are taking as well," he said.
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)