Eastern Washington soldier killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan

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by WHITNEY WARD / KREM.com

KING5.com

Posted on June 11, 2014 at 7:20 PM

SPRAGUE, Wash.—More details emerged Wednesday about the friendly fire airstrike that killed five American soldiers in Afghanistan, including 22-year-old Justin Clouse from Sprague.

Military authorities said U.S. Special Forces were conducting stepped up patrols in Southern Afghanistan when they encountered the enemy.

READ: Sprague community describes fallen soldier as "quiet leader"

The soldiers were taking heavy rocket fire from the Taliban and were locked in a gun battle when they called for air support, according to officials.

Clouse was one of five Americans killed when the airstrike, that was supposed to be coming to their rescue, ended up hitting them instead.

The deaths came at a time when American casualties in Afghanistan were at a low point. Before the airstrike on Monday, there had been 14 combat deaths in 2014. That was down from more than 400 in 2010.

PHOTOS: Sprague man killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan

The number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan had also decreased to less than 32,000 in 2014. It was three times that number just a few years prior. Coalition forces were preparing for withdrawal and had been turning operations over to the country’s own military.

Monday’s friendly fire incident was not the first of its kind. In 2002, four Canadian troopers were killed by a U.S. airstrike. In 2004, A well-known and controversial friendly fire death involved Army Ranger and former NFL player Pat Tillman. In 2010, German soldiers killed six Afghan troops who were fighting against the Taliban.

Officials said Monday’s friendly fire incident was the deadliest in the 13 years of the war. 

It was believed that Clouse and the elite special operations forces were patrolling a volatile Arghandab District ahead of Afghanistan’s presidential election.

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