A New York City police detective volunteering for his third deployment to war zones was mourned on Tuesday, a day after he and five other Americans were killed in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan near Bagram air base.
“Detective Joseph Lemm epitomized the selflessness we can only strive for: putting his country and city first,” New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said in a statement.
Six American troops, including Lemm, a 15-year veteran of the NYPD who also volunteered in the U.S. Air National Guard, were killed Monday when a suicide bomber on a motorbike struck their patrol in the deadliest attack on U.S. forces this year.
Bagram, around 40 km (25 miles) north of Kabul, is one of the main bases for the 9,800 U.S. troops left in Afghanistan after international troops ended combat operations last year.
Mayor Bill de Blasio sent his condolences early Tuesday to Lemm’s wife and two children, saying in a statement they were among so many American families this holiday season “who have an empty chair at the dinner table because one of their loved ones went off to defend our country and never came back.”
Lemm was deployed twice to Afghanistan and once to Iraq, Bratton said.
The Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the strike, remains resilient 14 years after the start of U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan. It has ramped up its attacks this year, inflicting heavier casualties on Afghan security forces.
Just last week, the Pentagon warned of deteriorating security in Afghanistan and assessed the performance of Afghan security forces as “uneven and mixed.”
More than 2,300 U.S. troops have died in the Afghan war since the 2001 invasion, but the pace of U.S. deaths has fallen off sharply since the end of formal U.S. combat and a drawdown of American forces.
Pentagon data showed there have been 10 so-called “hostile” deaths of U.S. servicemembers in Afghanistan this year. There have been 10 non-hostile deaths, largely from aircraft crashes.