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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20 Indian soldiers killed in border clash with China

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Senate Democrats oppose Trump pick for top Pentagon policy job after Islamophobic tweets emerge

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Why it matters: The position is the Defense Department's top policy job and third-highest role. It oversees its national security and nuclear deterrence policies — among numerous other responsibilities — and closely advises the secretary of defense on policy matters.

Updated Jun 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden campaign, DNC jointly raised $81 million in May

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Why it matters: Biden deputy campaign manager Rufus Gifford points out that in addition to being the campaign's largest monthly haul of the 2020 cycle, it's also a larger total than the Obama campaign raised in May 2012 ($60 million) and the Clinton campaign raised in May 2016 ($38 million).