KABUL, Afghanistan—An American service member was “killed in action” in Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Saturday, July 13, without offering further details about the service member’s identity or the circumstances surrounding their death.
In a telephone interview, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said the terrorist group was behind Saturday’s killing, even as U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been holding talks with the Taliban in recent weeks to try and negotiate an end to the war in Afghanistan.
The current conflict began in 2001 with the U.S.-led invasion to unseat the Taliban and hunt down al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. After nearly 18 years, it is America’s longest war, in which over 2,400 American service members have died.
Mujahed said two U.S. service personnel were killed when Taliban militants attacked a tank in Sayed Abad district of central Wardak province, barely 40 miles south of the Afghan capital, Kabul. The discrepancy between the number of fatalities given by the U.S. and the Taliban could not immediately be explained, but the Taliban often exaggerate their claims.
Separately, a gun battle in the capital of Badghis province in the country’s northwest left three police dead, provincial governor Abdul Ghafur Malikzai said.
Terrorists attacked a government compound in the provincial capital, Qala-e-Naw, from a position in a nearby hotel. Badghis health department chief Abdul-Latif Roustaie told The Associated Press that 10 people were wounded.
Officials said two of the gunmen were killed and one suspect had yet to be apprehended.
Afghanistan’s police and military personnel come under near-daily attacks and have suffered staggering casualties in recent months, most often at the hands of Taliban insurgents, who say the war will continue as long as U.S. and NATO forces are still in Afghanistan.
Earlier Saturday, the ISIS terrorists group’s affiliate in Afghanistan claimed responsibility for a suicide attack Friday at a wedding in eastern Nangarhar province. The bomber, a 13-year-old boy, killed six people and wounded several others. Police said the attack targeted Malik Toor, a pro-government militia commander, who was killed in the blast.
The ISIS affiliate is headquartered in eastern Afghanistan and is slowly expanding into the mountains of nearby Kunar and Nuristan provinces, also in eastern Afghanistan.
Recent Service Member Deaths
The U.S. military said on June 26, two of its service members were killed in Afghanistan, but did not offer any details surrounding the circumstances of their deaths.
The killings occurred a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a quick visit to the Afghan capital of Kabul where he said Washington was hopeful of a peace deal before Sept. 1.
The Taliban refused to hold direct talks with the Afghan government, calling it a U.S. puppet, but have said they would talk with government officials if they arrive at the meeting as ordinary Afghans.
U.S. military statement announcing the killings of the U.S. service members was a terse, two-paragraph announcement. The statement also said the identities of the soldiers would not be released.
Talks between Khalilzad and the Taliban have focused on U.S. and NATO troop withdrawal and guarantees from the Taliban that Afghanistan would not again become a safe haven for terrorists to plan a global attack like 9/11. Pompeo said the United States and the Taliban were close to a deal on countering terrorism.
Pompeo added that discussions with the Taliban have also begun on U.S. troop withdrawal.
“While we’ve made clear to the Taliban that we are prepared to remove our forces, I want to be clear we’ve not yet agreed on a timeline to do so,” Pompeo said.