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IEDs Kill U.S. Troops in the Philippines

I got a disturbing press release last night from the Defense Department. Two U.S. soldiers — Sgt. 1st Class Christopher D. Shaw and Staff Sgt. Jack M. Martin III — were killed supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. The deaths of U.S. soldiers at war is tragically all too familiar. But look at how Sgts. Shaw and Martin died:

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died Sept. 29 in Jolo Island, the Philippines, from the detonation of an improvised-explosive device.The soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, Fort Lewis, Wash.

I was not aware that insurgent groups in the Philippines were now using IEDs. NPR reports that the likely culprit is the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group Abu Sayyaf and that Sgts. Shaw and Martin were supporting a school-construction mission. (NPR also mistakenly says these two soldiers were sailors, and unless there was another IED-related fatality I haven’t been notified about, this appears to be wrong.) That’s somewhat different from what I was told by Maj. Emanuel Ortiz at the Army Special Operations Command’s public affairs office. Ortiz told me their mission was to “conduct training and mentoring” of the Philippine Army.

How did their mission support Operation Enduring Freedom, the name of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan? Ortiz referred that question to U.S. Pacific Command, and since it’s about 4 a.m. in Honolulu, where Pacific Command is located, I am still unclear on that question, as well as whether we’re seeing a new battlefield for the migration of IEDs, the trademark innovation of insurgents in Iraq that has unfortunately spread to Afghanistan.

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