Afghanistan: US military says two service members killed

Two US service members have been killed in Afghanistan, the NATO-led Resolute Support mission said in a statement without providing details surrounding the circumstances of their deaths.
The US military said the identities of the soldiers would not be released until their families had been notified.
The deaths were announced on Wednesday, a day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to the Afghan capital Kabul, where he discussed ongoing peace efforts and security with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and senior politicians, including former president Hamid Karzai.
He said Washington was hopeful of a peace deal before September 1, ahead of the scheduled presidential election in Afghanistan on the 28th of that month.
More than 2,400 US service personnel have died in Afghanistan since the US-led coalition invaded in October 2001 to remove the Taliban and hunt down al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US.

US-Taliban talks

A seventh round of peace talks between US and Taliban negotiators is set to begin on June 29 in Qatar's capital Doha, where the armed group maintains a political office.
Before leaving Afghanistan for India, Pompeo on Tuesday underscored US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad's strategy in the talks aimed at ending the 18-year-long war, which involves four interconnected issues: "counterterrorism", foreign troop presence, inter-Afghan dialogue and a permanent ceasefire.
Talks between Khalilzad and the Taliban have focused on US and NATO troop withdrawal and guarantees from the Taliban that Afghanistan would not be used as a launchpad for armed groups or fighters to plan attacks.
Pompeo said the US and the Taliban were close to a deal on countering "terrorism". He added that discussions with the Taliban have also begun on US troop withdrawal.
"While we've made clear to the Taliban that we're prepared to remove our forces, I want to be clear we've not yet agreed on a timeline to do so," Pompeo said.
The Taliban have refused to hold direct talks with the Afghan government, calling it a US puppet, but have said they would talk to government officials if they attend the meeting in a personal capacity.
"All sides agree that finalising a US-Taliban understanding on terrorism and foreign troop presence will open the door to inter-Afghan dialogue and negotiation.
"When that table is put together it will be a large table. It's crucial to include not just the Taliban and the government, but also representatives from opposition parties, civil society, including women and youth," Pompeo said.
More than 20,000 foreign troops, most of them American, are in Afghanistan as part of a US-led NATO mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces. Some US forces carry out "counterterrorism" operations.
A record 3,804 Afghan civilians were killed last year due in part to stepped-up air attacks by US-led forces and an increased number of suicide bombings, the United Nations said in a February report.
Afghanistan: Is peace with the Taliban possible?


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