The identities of two U.S. service membersin Afghanistan on Saturday have been released. Two others were injured in the attack.
Military officials identified the two soldiers killed as 29-year-old Staff Sargeant Ian McLaughlin of Newport News, Virginia, and 21-year-old Private First Class Miguel Villalon of Joliet, Illinois. They both served as combat engineers in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The Taliban took responsibility for Saturday's attack. A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, said it occurred in the southern Kandahar province.
More than 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan. Last year was the deadliest for U.S. service members there since 2014, with 23 American troops killed, even as Washington engaged in peace talks with the Taliban.
The latest attack seemed certain to stall fresh efforts to restart the on-again, off-again peace talks between Washington and the Taliban.
U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been pressing the insurgents to declare a cease-fire or at least reduce violent attacks. That would give a window in which the U.S. and the Taliban could forge an agreement to withdraw all of America's troops. That agreement would also set out a road map for direct Afghan-to-Afghan talks, mapping out the country's post-war future.
The Taliban leadership decided at the end of December to support a temporary cease-fire to allow for a peace deal to be signed, but they never said when it would go into effect. The final approval required from their leader, Maulvi Hibatullah Akhundzada, was never announced.
An Afghan official said the attack had taken place in the Dand district of Kandahar province. The official wasn't authorized to speak with media and requested anonymity.
The Taliban now control or hold sway over roughly half of Afghanistan. The militants continue to stage near-daily attacks targeting Afghan and U.S. forces, even as they hold peace talks with the U.S. Scores of Afghan civilians are also killed in the crossfire or by roadside bombs planted by militants.
The U.S. currently has about 13,000 troops in Afghanistan. U.S. Ambassador John Bass left last week, ending his two-year tenure as America's top diplomat.
First published on January 13, 2020 / 4:44 AM
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