2 U.S. Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan in What Taliban Call an Ambush

KABUL, Afghanistan — Two United States soldiers were killed during a military operation in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, bringing to nine the total number of American military fatalities in the country this year.

A statement released by the American-led NATO mission in Afghanistan confirmed the two deaths but did not provide further details.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said the two service members were killed in an ambush in eastern Wardak Province.

The deaths came just days before the next round of talks between the Taliban and the United States. The new round is scheduled to start on Saturday in Doha, the Qatari capital.

Although the number of American troops in Afghanistan has dropped to about 14,000 — a small fraction of the more than 100,000 at the peak of the war — the American military has taken a more proactive role in helping Afghan forces.

The remaining American forces are helping the Afghan military defend its positions and deplete the Taliban through airstrikes and commando raids, partly to gain leverage at the negotiating table in Doha.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in an unannounced visit to Kabul on Tuesday, reiterated that negotiating a political settlement to end the long war is a priority of the Trump administration.

“With so much going on in the world right now, it’s sometimes easy to forget about America’s commitment here to Afghanistan, but the world should know that the Trump administration has not forgotten, the American people have not forgotten,” Mr. Pompeo said. “As President Trump has said, the hour has come for peace.”

The latest deaths come two months after three American soldiers were killed in an explosion near Bagram Air Base in Parwan Province. And in March, two members of an American special forces unit and four Afghan special forces soldiers were killed during an operation on the outskirts of Kunduz.

In 2018, 13 American troops were killed in combat in Afghanistan, up from 11 in 2017.

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