Navy SEAL congressman to probe US soldier's death in Afghanistan

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Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), a retired Navy SEAL commander, and seven other Republicans are requesting a briefing from the Pentagon on the circumstances surrounding the death in Afghanistan of Special Forces Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock.

McClintock was killed after his unit was pinned down in Afghanistan, and there are claims that bureaucratic hurdles delayed backup support. 

Zinke said he's heard from sources in the Special Forces community that air support and the quick reaction force (QRF) — which provides backup and rescue to units in distress — was delayed due to bureaucratic hurdles and the Obama administration's restrictive rules of engagement.

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"I've commanded some of the finest special forces our nation has seen, and to think that these guys were abandoned by Washington while they were under fire is unthinkable and frankly against everything the U.S. military stands for," Zinke said. 

"If there was a decision to delay the QRF or call off air strikes on enemy combatants after the ground commanders ordered it, that is a clear dereliction of duty. I will be getting to the bottom of this. Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock, his family and his unit deserve for the truth to be out there, and we need to make sure this does not happen again," he added. 

McClintock was fatally wounded earlier this week after his team of Green Berets came under fire in southern Afghanistan. Two other U.S. soldies and a "number" of Afghan troops were also injured, the Pentagon said.

Two medical evacuation helicopters were sent to evacuate the dead and wounded, but one was waved off after coming under fire and the other struck a wall while landing and could not take off. 

It wasn't until hours later that McClintock and the other casualties were recovered. 

According to SOFREP, a blog maintained by former members of the special operations community, a team was standing by and ready to aid the pinned-down team, but their command would not let them leave their base, "insisting that they wait for the next period of darkness" to drive in.  

Meanwhile, according to the report, a Special Forces medic worked on a seriously-injured soldier for 12 hours, keeping him alive under enemy fire. 

SOFREP also said their command would not authorize air support from an AC-130 gunship circling overhead, due to fears of collateral damage. 

"Eventually, the command allowed AC-130 to fire a whopping two 40mm rounds into an open field [as a] weak show of force to the Taliban," the blog said. 

The Green Berets were in Marjah, Afghanistan — where the U.S. launched the 2009 surge — as part of a broader effort to retake the city from the Taliban. 

Although the administration ended the combat mission in 2014 in Afghanistan, U.S. troops have found themselves in combat — including late last year in Kunduz when the Taliban briefly overran the city. 

An AC-130 gunship sent to support Afghan troops in battle ended up bombing a Doctors Without Borders hospital, in what the Pentagon called a mistake. 

"Despite the fact the Obama Administration continually says we are not in combat in Afghanistan, it is very clear we are. Suicide bombers killed our troops in December and now another soldier has fallen this week," Zinke said. 

Zinke has been a strident critic of restrictive rules of engagement and using Special Forces without sufficient support.  

Zinke and colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee sent a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter requesting the briefing. The signatories included Reps. Duncan Hunter (Calif.), Trent FranksTrent FranksDems: House GOP just like Trump Supreme Court wrestles with corruption law House GOP reignites push for budget plan MORE (Ariz.), Jackie Walorski (Ind.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), Dr. Joe Heck (Nev.), Walter Jones (N.C.) and Steve Russell (Okla.).

-- Updated 4:42 p.m. ET