Small Wars Journal

Nangarhar is the Deadliest Afghan Province for U.S. Forces in the Past Year

Nangarhar is the Deadliest Afghan Province for U.S. Forces in the Past Year by Chad Garland - Stars & Stripes

The death of a Green Beret in a New Year’s Day firefight in Nangarhar province was a grim reminder of continued violence in the deadliest province in the deadliest country where Americans are deployed.

Weeks earlier, Air Force Brig. Gen. Lance Bunch told reporters a soldier’s death was a reminder of “the constant danger” troops face here every day. More Americans died in combat in Afghanistan last year than anywhere else — but nowhere else was more dangerous for deployed troops than Nangarhar.

The mostly Pashtun province east of Kabul is one of the few places Americans have been routinely accompanying Afghan forces into battle in the rugged mountainous border region with Pakistan. One-third of the 21 U.S. servicemembers killed in combat last year died there, more than in any other single spot where troops were fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Niger.

Combat deaths were far rarer in 2017 than at the height of the wars in Iraq — in 2007 — and Afghanistan — in 2010 — but the recent uptick in Nangarhar could foreshadow a rise in American bloodshed in the country as the U.S. escalates the fighting in its longest war.

Last year’s combat deaths in Nangarhar all followed the intensification of a counterterrorism campaign there that’s been putting U.S. troops alongside Afghan units on the front lines of the battle with a resilient Islamic State offshoot known as ISIS-Khorasan, or ISIS-K. The group has taken root there in recent years, where the Taliban also operate, making it a three-sided war…

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