Officials with Operation Resolute Support announced Tuesday that four coalition members in Afghanistan have tested positive for COVID-19 — the first confirmed cases of the virus among service members in Afghanistan.
The service members — whose nationalities were withheld — were “newly arrived” and in a screening facility when they began to show symptoms, Resolute Support said in a press release.
Officials said they have taken precautions to identify and quarantine individuals these service members have come in contact with.
Roughly 1,500 service members and civilians are living in screening facilities in Afghanistan “out of an abundance of caution," according to Resolute Support. These people are either newly arriving in Afghanistan or returning from leave, according to the release.
As of Tuesday, 38 Resolute Support personnel are showing flu-like symptoms and are in isolation receiving medical care, the release said.
Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, called on various parties to the conflict in Afghanistan to reduce violence to help slow the spread of the virus.
There have been concerns that COVID-19 could slow down the departure of American troops following a Feb. 29 peace deal that calls for the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan over 14 months.
The U.S. is in the process of reducing troop levels to 8,600. But screening and quarantine procedures for inbound troops could slow the drawdown.
Resolute Support said in a news release that commanders are “making the necessary adjustments to temporarily pause personnel movement into theater," and that adopted screening guidelines from the World Health Organization “will necessitate some servicemembers remaining beyond their scheduled departure dates.”
Resolute Support said it’s implementing “every available control measure” to stymie the spread of the virus and is “assessing and adjusting operations” to protect the force.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.