By Thomas Gibbons-Neff and John Ismay
WASHINGTON — The death of an Army soldier after a blast in southern Afghanistan this month was the result of a series of oversights by a military unit that frequently used a small strip of desert as a patrol route and observation post, prompting Taliban militants to bury explosives nearby, military officials familiar with the matter said.
The death of the soldier, Specialist James A. Slape, casts an unwelcome spotlight on the United States’ prolonged presence in Afghanistan. Despite the Pentagon’s claims that American troops are mostly relegated to advising and assisting their Afghan counterparts, they still undertake some of the same types of missions common at the height of the conflict, when more than 100,000 Western troops were deployed there.
After the explosion that killed Specialist Slape, Taliban militants recovered part of his left leg and paraded it through a bazaar in the Garmsir District, according to the officials. It was a grim reminder that, even as the United States courts peace talks with the group, the Taliban continues to wage a brutal, unsparing war, and to use the projection of violence as a demonstration of its influence and endurance.
Specialist Slape, 23, of Morehead City, N.C., was the eighth American to die in Afghanistan in 2018. Col. Dave Butler, a spokesman for the American-led mission in Afghanistan, declined to comment, saying that the attack was still under investigation.
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