WASHINGTON — U.S. military equipment displayed in Islamic State group photographs was discarded last month in eastern Afghanistan when troops came under fire while evacuating wounded soldiers, Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland said Wednesday. The photos published Saturday by the Islamic State group show a small cache of American gear, including a rocket launcher, ammunition, a radio and some personal protection materials that the militants said they captured on the battlefield in Nangarhar Province. Afghan security forces launched a massive operation last month to route Islamic State fighters from the province along the Pakistan border where it controls about three or four districts. American special operations troops accompanying Afghan commandos on clearing operations in the province came under "effective enemy fire" at a casualty collection point and left some gear behind while moving to a safer location to evacuate the wounded, Cleveland said in a prepared statement. "For understandable reasons, the lives of soldiers were not put at risk to recover the equipment prior to the scheduled exfiltration from the area at the already planned conclusion of the operation," the general said. "Neither U.S. positions nor personnel were overrun." It was not clear Wednesday whether any of the gear recovered by the Islamic State group included any sensitive materials, according to a Pentagon official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. But Cleveland said the United States did "not expect any measureable operational impact due to the loss" of the equipment. Five U.S. special operators were injured in Nangarhar during fighting with Islamic State group on July 24 and July 25. Three were evacuated from Afghanistan for treatment, and the other two were quickly returned to duty. None of the injuries were considered life-threatening. Three additional American servicemembers suffered minor injuries in Nangarhar on Monday when a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle packed with explosives. The roughly two-week-old operations in Nangarhar have been highly successful since they were launched last month, said Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top American commander in Afghanistan. Nicholson said roughly one-quarter of the terrorist organization’s fighters in Afghanistan have been killed, according to Reuters. "They killed a number of top leaders of the organization and up to 300 of their fighters," the general told Reuters. The Islamic State group in Afghanistan was once believed to have up to 3,000 fighters and a presence in several provinces, but its influence has been limited to Nangarhar in recent months. The militant group’s forces have been greatly diminished in clashes with the Taliban, Afghan government forces and in American airstrikes that began targeting them in January.
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