The Pentagon said Thursday that U.S. troops were in a combat "situation" — but not a combat role — in Afghanistan, despite a team of Green Berets getting pinned down in a firefight this week that resulted in one being killed and two injured.
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said the soldiers were in a "support backup" role, training, advising and assisting their Afghan counterparts, who lead in fighting the Taliban.
The team from 19th Special Forces Group came under fire on Tuesday and were pinned down for hours before another military team came to their aid.
Two medical evacuation helicopters were initially sent, but one was waved off after taking enemy fire. The other landed safely but could not take off, Pentagon officials said, because its rotor had struck a wall.
Cook said that helicopter has been transported to Kandahar Air Field, the largest U.S. base in the area after Camp Bastion was turned over to the Afghan government.
Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), a retired Navy SEAL, on Thursday requested a formal briefing from the Pentagon on the circumstances that led to the death of Army Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock.
He said Special Forces members have told him that the response team was not allowed to launch immediately and that air support was withheld out of concern for civilian casualties.
Cook said there was no delay in providing support for the pinned-down forces.