2 Fort Bragg Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan Identified: Pentagon

January 12, 2020 Updated: January 13, 2020

The Pentagon confirmed that two soldiers killed Saturday in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb were from Illinois and Virginia.

The two soldiers, identified as Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin, 29, of Newport News, Virginia; and Pfc. Miguel A. Villalon, 21, of Joliet, Illinois, was named in a Department of Defense statement on Sunday. Both soldiers were assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, according to the statement.

“The soldiers were conducting operations as part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission. The incident is under investigation,” the Pentagon wrote.

Villalon and McLaughlin were killed in action when their vehicle was struck by a roadside improvised explosive device (IED), the agency said.

The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, CBS News and other news outlets reported on Saturday. Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, told the news outlet that it occurred in Kandahar province in the country’s south.

Their deaths are the first for U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan in 2020. Currently, about 13,000 U.S. troops are deployed to Afghanistan, according to the Army Times.

More than 2,400 American service members have been killed in Afghanistan over the nearly 19-year war. And last year was among the deadliest in recent years as the United States attempted to hold peace talks with the Taliban. Twenty-three American troops were killed.

The Taliban leadership decided at the end of December to support a temporary cease-fire to allow for a peace deal to be signed, but they never said when it would go into effect. The final approval required from their leader, Maulvi Hibatullah Akhundzada, was never announced.

john bass steps down
US Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass attends a press conference during the UN Conference on Afghanistan in Geneva on Nov. 27, 2018. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)

Two U.S. service members were killed when their helicopter crashed in eastern Logar province In November. The U.S. military at the time said preliminary reports did not indicate it was caused by enemy fire. However, the Taliban claimed to have shot down the helicopter—a claim the U.S military dismissed as false.

Last week, John Bass, the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, stepped down in an expected departure, said  State Department on Monday.

“As diplomats, we rarely stay long enough in the country to see and experience a whole story. We arrive in the middle of a tale. We learn about the chapters we missed. And sometimes we become part of the story,” Bass said in a farewell video on social media. “None of us knows how this story, this chapter in the large tale of this country and its people, will end,” he added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.