The Pentagon has identified three of the four Americans who were killed by a terrorist suicide bombing in Syria on Wednesday. They are a U.S. soldier, sailor and a civilian who was working for the Defense Department, all of whom were supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.
The Pentagon on Friday identified three of the Americans, who are:
- Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida. Farmer was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
- Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, of upstate New York. Kent was assigned to Cryptologic Warfare Activity 66, based at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland.
- DOD civilian Scott A. Wirtz of St. Louis, Missouri. Wirtz was assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency as an operations support specialist.
A deadly terrorist blast rocked Manbij in northern Syria on Wednesday, killing two U.S. service members, an American Defense Department civilian and an American Defense Department contractor. The three Americans identified Friday died after sustaining injuries from the suicide improvised explosive device (IED), the Pentagon said.
The Pentagon says the incident is under investigation.
In a Navy press release, Commander Joseph Harrison said, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and teammates of Chief Petty Officer Kent during this extremely difficult time. She was a rockstar, an outstanding Chief Petty Officer, and leader to many in the Navy Information Warfare Community.”
U.S. Central Command on Wednesday had tweeted, “Two U.S. servicemembers, one Department of Defense (DoD) civilian and one contractor supporting DoD were killed and three servicemembers were injured while conducting a local engagement in Manbij, Syria, Jan. 16, 2019.”
The American deaths had not been initially verified by any news agencies or confirmed by defense officials, although some outlets – included Reuters – initially reported that up to four U.S. troops were killed and three wounded. The Manbij Military Council and Turkish state-run media also reported American casualties, according to Al Jazeera.
Operation Inherent Resolve had also tweeted Wednesday, “CJTF-OIR is aware of open source reports regarding an explosion in Syria. Coalition forces conducted a routine patrol in Syria today. We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time.”
Operation Inherent Resolve is the Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) leading the fight against ISIS in Iraq.
Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan on Wednesday had tweeted, “On behalf of the entire department, I extend our thoughts & prayers to the families and team members of those killed & wounded during today’s attack in Manbij.”
On behalf of the entire department, I extend our thoughts & prayers to the families and team members of those killed & wounded during today’s attack in Manbij.
— Acting SecDef Pat Shanahan (@DepSecDef) January 16, 2019
ISIS has reportedly taken credit for the attack.
President Donald Trump had tweeted late last year that the United States has “defeated ISIS,” and that the U.S. would be withdrawing all troops from Syria. There have more recently been reports that the withdrawal has begun, but it is initially equipment being withdrawn from the country, and not necessarily troops just yet.
There had been reports prior to Trump’s tweets that the U.S. military was preparing for a “full” and “rapid” withdrawal of more than 2,000 American service members in northeastern Syria, which would abruptly end the ground mission against ISIS there. It has since been reported that the troop withdrawal might not be as rapid as previously stated, but no details are being made available at this time.
The news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which said that U.S. officials have begun informing their partners in Syria of plans to immediately withdraw U.S. troops.
A defense official had confirmed to CNN that plans were underway for a “full” and “rapid” withdrawal of U.S. troops. The official told CNN that the decision was rendered by President Trump.
There are approximately 2,000 U.S. service members in Syria who mainly help train local soldiers, including the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), to fight against ISIS.
U.S. troops have been in Syria fighting ISIS for more than four years.
While Trump has said in the past that he would like to withdraw all troops from Syria, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had said this fall that troops would remain in Syria to complete their mission of defeating ISIS so the terrorist group cannot mount a comeback.
In April 2018, Mattis had said, “We do not want to simply pull out before the diplomats have won the peace. You win the fight — and then you win the peace,” Reuters had reported.
Mattis resigned as defense secretary late last year, citing differences of opinion with Trump. It is believed that their differing viewpoints on U.S. troops in Syria to fight ISIS was one of the final straws.
There are more than 5,000 U.S. troops stationed in Iraq, which neighbors Syria to the east.