U.S. Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

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General Tommy Franks answers questions from the media

The war in Afghanistan marked a sober milestone Friday when the Pentagon reported the first U.S. fatality from hostile fire. According to General Tommy Franks, head of U.S. central command, a member of the Army Special Forces was killed by small arms fire near Khowst, in eastern Afghanistan. The soldier's name has not yet been released. There is no word of other military casualties, but a CIA officer was also wounded in what observers are calling an "ambush." He is expected to survive.

While the as-yet unidentified member of the elite Green Berets, who was charged with "coordinating with local tribal elements" is the only death due to enemy fire, there have been other U.S. military deaths related to the war in Afghanistan. In early December, three special operations troops were accidentally killed during a U.S. airstrike over Kandahar. Two soldiers died in a helicopter crash in Pakistan, one perished in another accident, another was swept overboard en route to the region and a CIA operative died in the Mazar-e-sharif prison uprising.

Each of those deaths carried an impact, but none were traceable back to the enemy. Has three months of largely bloodless battles left Americans at home ill-equipped to deal with the oddly foreign specter of hostile fire casualties? Will Friday's shooting change the way Americans view the war against terrorism?

TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson believes the news will make an impact — but won't affect widespread support for the military?s mission. "The U.S. public will care about this because such deaths are rare," he says, "but I don't think it will affect public support for the war one iota." Thompson, like other military analysts, credits the grim realism of the Pentagon's public relations team for keeping the possibility of American deaths in the forefront of everyone's mind — and lessening the blow of this new reality. "Rumsfeld and others have been predicting U.S. deaths since this campaign began," Thompson adds. Sadly, it seems those long-standing predictions have finally come true.