Casualties are mounting for the U.S. armed forces all over the world. Along with deaths during routine exercises, the U.S. armed forces are also losing men due to the hazards of combat. One of the latest deaths is that of two soldiers in Iraq, who died while attempting to fire an Artillery gun.

It appears the soldiers were training the howitzer at an Islamic State target when the shell, instead of firing, exploded. This resulted in the death of 2 soldiers and 5 were injured. They were all evacuated by helicopter but two of the seven succumbed to injuries sustained during the blast.

The place where the accident took place has not been identified but it could have been in Northern Iraq which now has a sizeable ISIS presence. With Mosul captured the ISIS fighters have regrouped in Northern Iraq and the Iraqi army, with help from the U.S. army and air support are attacking them. Pentagon spokesperson Rob Manning said that the incident took place on Monday and despite the quick evacuation, two of the soldiers who have now been identified died, Fox News reported.

Deaths of U.S. soldiers

It was learned that the two who died belonged to the 82nd Airborne Division which has its peacetime location at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The crew of seven was firing an M777 Howitzer which is a heavy 155mm artillery gun with a range of 10-15 miles.

They were directing their fire towards an ISIS position when the gun malfunctioned and the shell exploded.

This is the version given out by the military but ISIS has claimed that the soldiers were killed by rockets fired by them. This has been denied by the U.S. army. An investigation into the accident and deaths has been ordered and the inquiry report will pinpoint why the gun exploded.

The next of kin of the fallen soldiers have been notified and this brings the death toll to nine U.S. soldiers who have died while fighting ISIS in Iraq. In addition, nearly 50 have been injured since the start of the campaign in August 2014.

Role of U.S. troops

The U.S. troops are in a support role and the brunt of the fighting is being done by the Iraqi army.

However, this support is critical and if the U.S. were to withdraw, the Iraqi army offensive would just peter out. ISIS still controls large areas of the desert as well as three towns. The towns under their control are Tal Afar, Hawija in northern Iraq, and al-Qaim which is close to the Syrian border. The U.S. has estimated that about 2000 Islamic State fighters are still operating in the area.

Battle not over

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other top U.S. officials have pledged to support the Iraqi army in its fight against ISIS with all means at their disposal including air power until the Islamic State is defeated. If the battle continues, the US army has to be prepared to suffer more battle casualties.