A U.S. Special Operations service member was killed and two others were injured after coming under enemy fire in Afghanistan’s Helmand province Tuesday, but asked whether this meant U.S. troops were engaged in combat, a Pentagon spokesman said repeatedly that they were there in their mandated mission to “train, advise, assist” Afghan forces.
Defense officials said two HH-60 Pavehawk medevac helicopters were sent in to provide help, but one was “waved off” after coming under fire and returned safely to base. The other landed, but sustained rotor blade damage after apparently striking a wall.
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook, briefing reporters even as hostilities in Marjah were still reported to be underway, said he could not comment on claims by the Taliban that it had brought down the helicopter, or that it had been hit by a mortar while on the ground.
Cook was asked several times, in different ways, whether U.S. forces were in fact engaged in combat in Afghanistan, but did not answer directly.