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Two US service members killed in Afghanistan, the military said




An American soldier seeks his rifle at a doorway after being hit by the Taliban under patrol in Kandahar Province, southern Afghanistan on April 26, 2012. REUTERS / Baz Ratner / File Photo

Two US service members were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the US military said one day after an unannounced visit to the country by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The military did not immediately give details of the deaths, but indicated that the service members were killed in battle. The Taliban rebellious group claimed responsibility and said the two Americans were being defeated in Wardak Province, about 60 miles southwest of Kabul.

The deaths were reported three days before a seventh round of US Taliban talks scheduled for June 29 in Qatar.

"The names of the officials killed in action are held back to 24 hours after the announcement of their next family is completed," the US-led NATO mission in Afghanistan said in a statement.

Speaking to journalists Wednesday in New Delhi, called the deaths "tragic" and added: "I think this is driving home the need for us to succeed" in the negotiations for an end to Afghanistan's decades of violence.

The US target in Afghanistan "is a reconciliation, to reduce the level of violence, to reduce the risk of Afghans wide and the risk of US service members," he said. "So I think what you want to see is a continued push from the United States to get the vote, the reduction in risk that the president states as the mission of the state department and the US government." [19659008] In his brief visit to Kabul on Tuesday, Pompeo met President Ashraf Ghani, CEO Abdullah Abdullah and former President Hamid Karzai to discuss the need for a peaceful solution to end nearly 18 years of warfare in Afghanistan involving the United States.

"Afghans yearn for peace and we share their desire to end the conflict," he wrote on Twitter after the visit. "Fred will offer Afghans and the wider region a different future that we are ready to support."

Pompeo said in Kabul that the US government is hoping to reach a peace agreement by September 1.

Taliban warriors continue war targeting Afghan governments and foreign forces across the country, although they participated in a wide range of negotiations with US officials and Afghan brokers.

But the Taliban have refused to meet directly with Ghani government and deviate him as a "stooge" of the Americans.

The two deaths on Wednesday bring this year's total US troop deaths in Afghanistan to 10, according to iCasualties, a site following US military casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In April, three US services members and one contractor were killed in a bombing attack outside the Bagram airfield, the largest US military base in the country. The Taliban claimed responsibility for this attack.

More than 2,400 US service personnel have died in Afghanistan, since US forces intervened in the country after September 11, 2001, attacks by the al-Qaeda terrorist organization based in Afghanistan under Taliban protection. Before US air disruption helped Afghan forces to drive the Taliban from Kabul in November 2001, the country had been obsessed with almost continuous warfare since the late 1970s, including a decade of occupation of Soviet forces in the 1980s.

Branigin reported from Washington. New Delhi's Carol Morello contributed to this report.


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