Officials said on Wednesday that the U.S. has conducted 12 airstrikes in Marjah in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Fox News reported.
While a group of U.S. special operations forces is no longer trapped inside the battlefield, U.S. forces remained at the site and the surrounding area Wednesday.
Senior U.S. defense officials said late Tuesday that more than a dozen U.S. Army special operations soldiers and a rescue helicopter flight crew were involved in “securing the crash site”, taking cover in a compound surrounded by enemy fire and hostile Taliban fighters after a U.S. special operation soldier was killed earlier in the day.
A U.S. official described the “harrowing” scene, saying there were enemy forces surrounding the compound in which the special operations team sought refuge.
“On the map there is one green dot representing friendly forces stuck in the compound, and around it is a sea of red [representing hostile forces],” the official said.
A U.S. military “quick reaction force” of reinforcements arrived late Tuesday and evacuated the U.S. special operations soldier killed in action, and the two wounded Americans in the compound, according to a U.S. defense official.
The crew of a disabled helicopter also evacuated safely, the official said.
The rest of the U.S. special operations team remain in the compound to secure the damaged HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter in an area surrounded by Taliban fighters.
An AC-130 gunship has been called in for air cover as the U.S. troops now wait out the night.
Earlier in the day, two USAF HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters were sent to rescue the U.S. special operations team. One of the helicopters took fire and waved off the mission and flew back to base.
The other helicopter’s blades struck the wall of the compound while attempting a rescue of the special operations team, according to defense officials who compared the scene to one similar to the helicopter crash inside Usama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on the mission to kill the Al Qaeda leader in May 2011.
The joint U.S. and Afghan special operations team was sent to Marjah to clear the area of Taliban fighters, who have retaken most of the town since November.
There were nine airstrikes on Tuesday in support of a clearing operation.
Earlier in the day, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook confirmed to reporters that the fighting in Marjah remains ongoing.
“There’s fighting on the ground as we speak,” said Cook.
“Everything’s being done to secure the safety of those Americans and the Afghan forces,” he added.
The Taliban in recent weeks has focused on retaking parts of Helmand, and the U.S. has countered with special operations forces working with Afghan troops.