Mar 9, 2020 - World

Two U.S. service members killed during anti-ISIS operation in Iraq

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.

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Iranian-backed militias increase attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq

Photo: Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Iranian-backed militias are more frequently and boldly attacking U.S. personnel in Iraq, and for the first time some of the strikes are taking place in broad daylight, The Washington Post reports.

The big picture: "The question of how to deter further militia strikes without putting troops at greater risk highlights how much American security and influence have evaporated in Iraq," Louisa Lovelock and Missy Ryan write.

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U.S. launches retaliatory strikes against Iranian-backed militias in Iraq

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on March 5 in Arlington, Virginia. Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The U.S. targeted five Kataib Hezbollah (KH) weapon storage facilities in Iraq on Thursday, following Wednesday's lethal attack on U.S. service members, the Department of Defense said.

Driving the news: Two U.S. service members and one member of the anti-ISIS coalition were killed in a rocket attack in Iraq on Wednesday. Similar rocket attacks in the past have been attributed to KH.

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U.S.-led coalition in Iraq withdraws from 3rd base this month

A soldier stands guard at the Qayyarah Airfiend in southern Mosul, March 26. Photo: Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq withdrew from K1 Air Base in the northern part of the country on Sunday, AP reports.

Why it matters: It's the third site that coalition forces have left this month as the U.S. gathers troops in Baghdad and at Ain al-Asad Air Base.

Go deeperArrowMar 29, 2020 - World