Two soldiers killed in Afghanistan were Special Forces in close-quarters fight, according to report

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 25, 2019

Two U.S. servicemembers were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, according to a statement from the U.S.-led NATO Resolute Support mission.

The U.S. military provided no other details on Wednesday. Pentagon policy is to withhold releasing names of servicemembers killed in action for 24 hours after next of kin are notified.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that the two soldiers were from an Army Special Forces team killed by small-arms fire in a close-quarters fight with Taliban forces. The Times, citing unnamed defense officials, reported the soldiers were killed in the southern Uruzgan province.

The Taliban earlier Wednesday claimed the Americans were killed in an ambush in Wardak province, farther east.

The group claimed responsibility for the deaths, writing in a statement on Twitter that the ambush took place on the outskirts of Wardak’s Sayad Abad district. That district is located about 60 miles south of Kabul, along the Kabul-Kandahar Highway.

News of the deaths comes about two months after three Marines assigned to 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division were killed in a car bombing outside Bagram Air Field. The April 8 incident, which happened only days before the Marines were expected to return home from Afghanistan, wounded three other Americans, an Afghan contractor and five Afghan civilians.

The U.S. war in Afghanistan is now in its 18th year. Some 14,000 American troops are deployed there and charged with two separate but related missions.

Some 8,500 are training and advising Afghan security forces in stabilizing the country and battling the Taliban insurgency as part of the U.S.-led NATO mission. The remainder are part of a bilateral counterterrorism operation against al-Qaida and Islamic State fighters.

More than 2,400 U.S. military personnel have been killed and more than 20,000 have been wounded since the beginning of the Afghan War in October 2001.

Wednesday’s deaths came one day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on a visit to Kabul, said Washington is hopeful a peace agreement to bring an end to the war in Afghanistan can be reached before Sept. 1.

A fresh round of peace talks is expected to begin Saturday in Doha, Qatar, between representatives of the United States and the Taliban.

So far, the Taliban have refused to hold direct talks with the Kabul government, which they regard as Washington’s puppet regime. Informal Afghan-to-Afghan talks planned for earlier this year in Doha were canceled after both sides disagreed over who should attend.