Two soldiers were killed in America’s longest war this weekend.
The Pentagon identified 29-year-old Staff Sergeant Ian McLaughlin and 21-year-old Private First Class Miguel Villalon as the victims in a deadly roadside bombing in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. According to the Washington Examiner, the Taliban took responsibility for the attack, which is under investigation by the Defense Department.
“These paratroopers represent the very best of our Nation and our Army. Three-time volunteers, they went when our Nation called and paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Maj. Gen. James Mingus said in a statement. “They will be honored, mourned, but never forgotten and we are committed to taking care of their families for life.”
American soldiers killed in Afghanistan
President Trump has sought a ceasefire in Afghanistan as part of his pledge to end America’s longest wars in the Middle East. But those efforts have been interrupted by continued violent attacks by the Taliban, which still controls about half the country, almost 20 years since America put boots on the ground.
McLaughlin and Villalon were assigned to the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. For both combat engineers, it was their first combat deployment, Fox reported, and they were part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission.
A native of Newport News, Virginia, McLaughlin is survived by his wife and four children. Villalon, of Aurora, Illinois, is survived by his parents.
“When our nation called for its best airborne combat engineers to deploy into harm’s way, Staff Sgt. McLaughlin and Pfc. Villalon answered without hesitation. They lived their motto, ‘Essayons,’ and embodied the values of the All-American engineer,” Col. Art Sellers, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, said in a statement. “Their loved ones are now surrounded by a caring community offering comfort and assistance through this difficult time.
Shaky peace efforts
The killings add to a death toll of more than 2,400 American troops who have died in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001, including 23 soldiers killed there in 2019. Widely considered America’s longest conflict, the Afghanistan War has lost support since it launched under President George W. Bush, but America still has about 13,000 troops in the country.
President Trump has been criticized for seeking an armistice with the Taliban to end the war, and the latest killings will almost certainly complicate his efforts. Many have criticized the mere idea of negotiating with terrorists, but Afghanistan has increasingly been seen as an unwinnable war against an evergreen insurgency.
Negotiations between America and the Taliban broke down late last year after the Taliban took credit for a Kabul bombing that killed an American and 11 others, prompting Trump to angrily withdraw, according to Reuters.
However, Trump has since affirmed a desire to negotiate, and his national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said he may draw down troops this year, with or without a deal with the Taliban.
The Middle East has been in turmoil recently after the killing of Qassem Soleimani, Tehran’s top military general, which drastically raised tensions between America and the regime. While the conflict de-escalated last week, Trump has continued to voice support for those protesting in opposition to the Iranian government.