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Latest U.S. Casualties Raise Questions About U.S. Role In Afghanistan

One American special operations soldier was killed Tuesday and two others were wounded in a firefight in Afghanistan. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook insists that U.S. soldiers are there to work alongside Afghan forces in a "train, advise and assist" capacity.

NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman reports that the American and Afghan forces are still engaged with the Taliban. He said two medevac helicopters flew in to help the wounded.

"One waved off after it came under Taliban fire and another crashed into a wall, its rotor hit a wall and it is still on the ground obviously damaged."

A U.S. military official says the American casualties came not from the helicopter crash, but from the firefight. The official also says more U.S. troops have been sent there as part of what's called a Quick Reaction Force.

This is the second time in the past months that American forces, serving a "train, advise and assist role" in Afghanistan, have engaged in combat.

"Back in Kunduz in October, special operators were fighting the Taliban along with Afghan forces for several days and that, of course, was where the Americans' AC 130 gunship accidentally shot at a hospital, killing several dozen patients and doctors and Afghans as well," Tom says.

"It raises questions," he adds, "about the true role of Americans in Afghanistan. Again, Cook says it is a 'train, advise and assist' mission but increasingly, Americans are coming under fire in Afghanistan."