WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says an American soldier has died in Iraq after an improvised explosive device detonated during a patrol outside Mosul.
Officials say the 1st lieutenant with the 82nd Airborne Division, 25-year-old Weston C. Lee of Bluffton, Georgia, died Saturday. He was conducting security as part of advise-and-assist support to partnered forces.
Saturday's incident marks the second American military fatality since the start of the Mosul operation against the Islamic State group more than six months ago. In October, just days after the operation to retake Mosul was formally launched, Navy chief petty officer Jason C. Finan, 34, of Anaheim, Calif., died of wounds sustained in a roadside bomb attack north of Mosul.
Finan was part of a team of advisers assisting Iraq's Kurdish fighters, known as the Peshmerga. The Pentagon has acknowledged that more than 100 U.S. special operations forces are operating with Iraqi units in and around Mosul, with hundreds more playing a support role in staging bases farther from the front lines.
Lee's death is the fifth combat death in Iraq since the U.S. launched military operations against ISIS in August 2014. ISIS fighters began growing in power in Iraq in early 2014 in the country's west, and in the summer of 2014 swept across much of the country's north. Since the beginning of the U.S. campaign against ISIS in Iraq, the number of U.S. troops in the country has steadily grown. There are now more U.S. forces in Iraq than at any time since the 2011 U.S. withdrawal, marking an intensifying war as Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition work to push ISIS out of the last pockets of territory the extremists control in Iraq.