Two U.S. Army Special Forces operators were killed during a military operation in Afghanistan on Wednesday, bringing to nine the number of American military fatalities in the country this year.
The two, part of a U.S. Special Forces team, were killed by small-arms fire in southern Uruzgan province, American defense officials said.
The soldiers were engaged in a fierce firefight with Taliban militants, with combatants only yards apart at one point, one of the defense officials said.
Earlier Wednesday, Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said the two service members had been killed in eastern Wardak Province. The Taliban claimed in a brief statement its fighters ambushed and killed two American soldiers in the eastern Afghan province of Wardak on Tuesday. The insurgent group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the attack took place in Sayedabad district.
It was not immediately clear whether Mujahid was discussing the same incident that led to the death of American soldiers. The reason for the difference in the reported location of the battle is unclear.
The deaths came just days before the resumption of talks between the Taliban and the United States. The new round is scheduled to start on Saturday in Doha, the Qatari capital.
Although the number of American troops in Afghanistan has dropped to about 14,000 — a small fraction of the more than 100,000 at the peak of the war — the American military has taken a more proactive role in helping Afghan forces.
The remaining American forces are helping the Afghan military defend its positions and have worked to deplete the Taliban through airstrikes and commando raids, partly to gain leverage at the negotiating table in Doha.
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