March 22, 2019
ISLAMABAD — A joint counter-Taliban operation in northern Afghanistan Friday killed two American service members and an Afghan partner, officials said.
The insurgent group said the raid took place in a Taliban-held area around the capital city of the volatile Kunduz province.
Officials with the NATO-led Operation Resolute Support confirmed the two U.S. fatalities, bringing to four the number of U.S. military personnel killed in Afghanistan this year.
The Taliban “fiercely” resisted the joint raid and ensuing clashes were still continuing in the area, said insurgent spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
He claimed in a brief statement that three U.S. and nine Afghan commando forces were killed, though Taliban claims are often inflated. Mujahid did not discuss Taliban casualties and said more details will be released soon.
Local officials said the operation killed many insurgents and a member of Afghan special forces was also among the dead, according to the New York Times.
About 14,000 U.S. soldiers deployed to the country are tasked to train and advise Afghan forces battling the Taliban. Separately, the U.S. military is also conducting operations against terrorist groups, including al-Qaida and Islamic State. Last year, 12 American service members were killed in military action in Afghanistan.
U.S. President Donald Trump plans to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan but he has linked the drawdown to progress in ongoing talks Washington is holding with the Taliban to end the war.
U.S. and Taliban negotiators announced at the end of their latest round of meetings in Qatar earlier this month that they had reached a preliminary draft agreement on the withdrawal of foreign forces in return for insurgent guarantees they will not to allow Afghan soil to be use again for international terrorism.
Chief U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad is scheduled to host his Russian, Chinese and European Union counterparts in Washington Friday to discuss “progress to date in peace talks” with the Taliban.
A State Department announcement said the discussions would also focus on the role Russia, China and the EU can play in bringing an end to the war, the longest overseas U.S. military intervention.