The U.S. service member killed in a suicide car bomb blast in Kabul on Thursday has been identified as Sgt. 1st Class Elis Angel Barreto Ortiz of Morovis, Puerto Rico.
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Serving with the 3rd Combat Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Barretto was one of 12 people killed in the attack, credit for which was claimed by the Taliban.
That blast also killed a Romanian soldier who was supporting Resolute Support, a NATO training mission in Afghanistan. Representatives from Taliban and U.S. have been engaging in talks to end the ongoing conflict there.
(MORE: US, Taliban closing in on agreement as top US envoy heads to Afghanistan)
Barreto was a maintenance control sergeant assigned to Company H, 82nd Brigade Support Battalion BSB, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He is survived by his wife and children of Cameron, North Carolina.
Barretto is the 16th American service member to be killed in combat this year. Overall, 19 Americans have been killed as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the U.S. counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan. The number of American fatalities this year is the highest since 2014, when the U.S. officially switched from combat operations to a train-and-advisory mission.
Sgt. 1st Class Elis Angel Barreto Ortiz of Morovis, Puerto Rico, with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 5, 2019, by a vehicle borne improvised explosive device.
Barreto joined the Army in August 2010 and was on his second deployment to Afghanistan. In 2017, he graduated from Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and was assigned to 82nd Brigade Support Battalion in January 2018.
(MORE: Taliban kills US service member, others in Kabul bombing as US-Taliban talks resume)
“With honor and courage, Sgt. 1st Class Barreto answered our nation’s call to deploy and serve in Afghanistan,” said Col. Arthur Sellers, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team. “In this most difficult time, his loved ones are now surrounded by a community of love and caring by members of our Paratrooper Family Readiness Group.”
Barreto earned numerous awards and decorations serving his country: the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Achievement Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Good Conduct Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Combat Action Badge, the Basic Parachutist Badge, the Army Driver and Mechanic Badge.
(MORE: As Trump, negotiators work toward peace, attacks highlight violent realities
U.S. and Taliban negotiators have been meeting in Qatar and are said to be closing in on a final agreement to help end the war in Afghanistan. As those talks have made progress, the Taliban has engaged in high-profile attacks that U.S. officials have said is a negotiating tactic to project strength and gain leverage.
Less publicized is what U.S. officials have described as a “pummeling” of Taliban targets through a significant increase in airstrikes and ground operations.
Increased violence has outraged much of the Afghan public, many of whom are skeptical of any peace deal between the U.S. and the Taliban.