US goes full year without combat death in Afghanistan

US goes full year without combat death in Afghanistan
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Monday marks a year since a U.S. service member in Afghanistan died in combat, the first yearlong stretch since the war began nearly 20 years ago.

The last U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan were Feb. 8, 2020, when Army Sgts. 1st Class Javier Gutierrez and Antonio Rodriguez were killed in Nangarhar province after a gunman wearing an Afghan army uniform opened fire.

Weeks later, on Feb. 29, 2020, the United States signed an agreement with the Taliban that sets terms for a full U.S. military withdrawal. Since then, the Taliban has largely refrained from conducting attacks on U.S. troops, though it has stepped up attacks on Afghan forces.

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Stars and Stripes first noted the milestone of a year without a combat death in America's longest war, which has seen 2,312 U.S. fatalities in total.

Though there have been no U.S. combat deaths in a year, there have been five noncombat deaths in Afghanistan over the last year, according to Defense Department statistics.

Under the U.S.-Taliban agreement, signed by the Trump administration, the Taliban is supposed to deny safe haven to terrorist groups intent on attacking the West, including al Qaeda. U.S. officials also expect the Taliban to reduce attacks on Afghan forces and participate in good faith peace talks with the Afghan government.

In exchange, the U.S. military is supposed to fully withdraw by May.

U.S. officials have repeatedly said the Taliban has failed to live up to its commitments, and President BidenJoe BidenUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Schumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks GOP Rep. Cawthorn likens vaccine mandates to 'modern-day segregation' MORE is now facing a decision on whether to stick with the May withdrawal. The Taliban has vowed to renew attacks on U.S. forces if they do not withdraw by May.

The U.S. military is down to 2,500 troops in Afghanistan after former President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE pressed ahead with drawing down despite the Taliban not living up to its commitments.

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Biden administration officials have said they are reviewing the deal with the Taliban and that no decisions have been made on force levels in Afghanistan.

On Monday, U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie warned the level of violence in Afghanistan is “simply too high” even as the Taliban has “mostly avoided attacking U.S. and coalition units.”

“I know that the administration has taken a close look at the way forward,” he said. “Some key elements of that plan, though, require the Taliban to take actions, and so they need to do some things, too, if we're going to go forward.”