Two US Special Forces Killed in Afghanistan Ahead of New Round of Taliban Peace Talks

The NATO Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan said two American service members have been killed—an announcement that comes a day after U.S. officials announced a return to Qatar to resume negotiations with the Taliban to end America's longest conflict.

The names of the two service members killed Wednesday are being withheld until 24 hours after their next of kin are notified, per Defense Department policy. The brief statement did not provide any details on the circumstances surrounding their death.

Pentagon sources Newsweek spoke to on condition of anonymity said the two Americans killed were U.S. Special Forces members. Their unit is apart of the NATO Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan.

The military officials said the two service members died after sustaining gunshot wounds while on a joint operation with Afghan special operation soldiers. Three of the Afghan commandos were wounded in the firefight, said one of the sources.

Newsweek later confirmed the New York Times report that the skirmish occurred in the northern province of Faryab. Abdul Manan Qateh, the district governor of Almar, told Times reporters that, "Our commandos and the Americans had an operation last night and there was fighting until 1 a.m."

us soldiers afghanistan taliban battle
Attached infantry soldiers from 4th Infantry Division, on patrol with Afghan Special Security Forces, return fire during a Taliban attack on their position in Logar province, October 12, 2018. The U.S. has been at war in Afghanistan for nearly 18 years, battling both the Taliban and ISIS. Specialist Casey Dinnison/NATO Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan

The latest casualties came a day after U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad announced he would be returning to the Qatari capital of Doha to resume peace talks with the Taliban aimed at ending the longest war in U.S. history. The diplomat raised hopes last week that a deal may have been reached following the eighth and latest round of talks with the militant group, but said Tuesday he would be going back to Doha to "try and close on remaining issues."

On Friday, President Donald Trump convened a meeting of top national security figures he later described as "very good." He suggested both sides of the conflict were "looking to make a deal—if possible."

The following day, however, a deadly blast at a wedding in the Afghan capital of Kabul killed some 63 people and wounded nearly 200 more. The attack, claimed by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS)'s local Khorasan branch, offered a grim reminder of the ongoing conflict that continued to claim the lives of civilians and soldiers alike.

The U.S. has been at war in Afghanistan for nearly 18 years, having intervened in the wake of the 9/11 attacks orchestrated by the Taliban's ally Al-Qaeda, which formed amid the CIA-backed mujahideen fight against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. The U.S. has since tried to divorce the two jihadi groups, with the Taliban focusing solely on expanding control in Afghanistan as opposed to Al-Qaeda's global aims.

As the Taliban's insurgency increased its hold on the country in recent years, however, the group has continued to deny recognition to the Afghan government and has yet to enter into talks, something Washington has sought to change as it prepared to withdraw thousands of troops from the war. Senior Pentagon officials have told Newsweek that the U.S. was trying to strike an agreement meant to foster an inter-Afghan dialogue before September 28, when the country was set to hold elections that the Taliban have vowed to disrupt.

More than 2,400 U.S. service personnel have died in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion began in 2001.

Correction: 8/22, 1:15 p.m.: The original version of this story incorrectly reported that the deaths occurred in Nangarhar province; the fatalities occurred in Faryab. Newsweek regrets the error.