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A helicopter carrying coalition troops, Nineveh, Iraq, October 2016. Photo: Hemn Baban/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Two U.S. Marine Special Operations service members were killed while accompanying Iraqi forces on a mission to eliminate an Islamic State (ISIS) stronghold in northern Iraq, the Department of Defense announced Monday.

Why it matters: It's the first time this year that U.S. troops have died in combat in the American campaign against ISIS, which began in 2014.

Details: The deaths occurred while the joint mission was on an operation to clear a mountainous cave complex heavily defended by ISIS fighters, military officials told the New York Times. The Pentagon offered little information in its news release because the troops' families had not been notified.

What they're saying: “The forces trekked through mountainous terrain and eliminated four hostile ISIS fighters who were barricaded in the caves,” Col. Myles B. Caggins III told the Times in a statement.

The big picture: The Islamic State has lost all its territory, and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a U.S. operation in October. However, the terrorist group retains the ability to recruit new soldiers and is "still very much intact," according to Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan.

  • The U.S.-led military coalition created to combat ISIS temporarily suspended its operations for 10 days in January after the U.S. killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, forcing troops to focus instead on protecting Iraqi bases from potential retaliatory attacks.

Go deeper

Updated 35 mins ago - Politics & Policy

House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

The House voted 220 to 212 on Wednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans plan to exact pain before COVID relief vote

Sen. Ron Johnson. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.

The new grifters: outrage profiteers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As Republicans lost the Senate and narrowly missed retaking the House, millions of dollars in grassroots donations were diverted to a handful of 2020 congressional campaigns challenging high-profile Democrats that, realistically, were never going to succeed.

Why it matters: Call it the outrage-industrial complex. Slick fundraising consultants market candidates contesting some of their party’s most reviled opponents. Well-meaning donors pour money into dead-end campaigns instead of competitive contests. The only winner is the consultants.