The NATO-led security alliance in Afghanistan says two U.S. soldiers were killed in an ambush in the eastern part of the country, bringing to nine the number of fatalities the U.S. military has suffered since the beginning of the year.
In a statement Wednesday, the Resolute Support mission said the identities of the soldiers would not be released until their families had been notified. It did not share further details about how and where the casualties occurred.
The Taliban claimed in a brief statement its fighters ambushed and killed two American soldiers in the eastern Afghan province of Wardak on Tuesday. The insurgent group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the attack took place in Sayedabad district.
It was not immediately clear whether Mujahid was discussing the same incident that led to the death of American soldiers.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the killing of American soldiers as “tragic" and offered his condolences to their families.
“I think this drives home the need for us to be successful, right, the mission set that we’ve undertaken in Afghanistan is a reconciliation, to reduce the level of violence, to reduce the level of risk to Afghans broadly and the risk to American service members,” Pompeo told reporters in India where he is holding bilateral meetings.
The Resolute Support Mission consists of some 17,000 troops, about half of them from the United States. A smaller number of U.S. troops also operates in Afghanistan under a counter-terrorism mission.
The latest U.S casualties come a day after Pompeo stopped in the Afghan capital, Kabul, for daylong talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani as well as other senior leaders and opposition politicians to discuss ongoing efforts Washington is making to reach an agreement with the Taliban toward ending the nearly 18-year-old war.
As U.S. and Taliban negotiators are preparing to meet in Qatar Saturday for a new round of talks, Pompeo told reporters before leaving Afghanistan he is hopeful of a peace deal “before September 1”, ahead of the country's presidential election on 28th that month.