Two US soldiers killed in Afghanistan: NATO

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Two US service members were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, NATO said, the latest international casualties as the US and the Taliban prepare for a new round of talks.

Nine US service members have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year, compared to 12 killed in all of 2018
Nine US service members have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year, compared to 12 killed in all of 2018

NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan gave no further details, but the deaths came less than 24 hours after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Kabul and said he hopes for a peace deal with the Taliban “before September 1”.

“In accordance with US Department of Defense policy, the names of the service members are being withheld until 24 hours after notification of next of kin is complete,” NATO said in a statement.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the incident, but previous attacks on US-led NATO forces have been claimed by the Taliban.

The blast brings to nine the number of US service members killed in Afghanistan so far this year, compared to 12 killed in all of 2018.

In his visit with President Ashraf Ghani, Pompeo said peace was Washington’s “highest priority”. Last September the US began a fresh push to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table to end America’s longest war.

The next round of talks between the Taliban and the US are set to begin on June 29 in Doha.

The talks have centred on four issues: counter-terrorism, the foreign troop presence, an intra-Afghan dialogue, and a permanent ceasefire.

The US now has some 14,000 troops in Afghanistan — down from a peak of around 100,000 — most of them deployed to train and advise Afghan counterparts.

Nearly 2,300 American soldiers have died and more than 20,400 have been wounded in the country since a US-led coalition ousted the Taliban in 2001.

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