Details are sketchy right now, but the Pentagon has acknowledged that an American soldier was killed on Monday in Afghanistan. The Taliban have already taken credit for a roadside bombing in northern Kunduz province, where they claim the attack took place. They also tweeted a picture of the killed soldier’s ID card.
The Pentagon doesn’t release any information for 24 hours until the next of kin can be notified. This death raises the death toll for U.S. troops to 20 for this year — there have also been three non-combat deaths. This makes 2019 the deadliest year for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since major combat operations were ceased in 2015. More than 2,400 troops have been killed in Afghanistan since the U.S. entered the country in 2001 after 9/11.
The Taliban claim that another American soldier and an Afghan soldier were seriously wounded in the roadside attack.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid took to WhatsApp and social media to post that the U.S. soldier was killed in the Chardara district in northern Kunduz province as American and Afghan forces were carrying out a joint operation. Mujahid said that the roadside bomb that killed the service member had been planted by the Taliban.
Kunduz province is heavily controlled by the Taliban: they’ve attacked the capital city twice in the past few years, but have been driven back by U.S.-Afghan troops and U.S. airstrikes.
There are currently about 12,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. They are working alongside the Afghan troops in a train-assist-advise role. Special Operations Forces continue to conduct counter-terror operations alongside their Afghan allies.
Last month two American soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash in the eastern Logar province. The Taliban claimed to have shot down the helicopter, but the Pentagon denied it, stating that the aircraft crashed due to a mechanical malfunction.
As the war continues, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is this week trying to reopen negotiations with the Taliban through the group’s political office in Qatar. Negotiations were ceased when the Taliban conducted a large suicide bombing outside of Bagram airbase, a week ago, in which two Afghan civilians were killed and 70 wounded.
The sticking issue in the talks remains the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate directly with the Afghan government. As a result, any peace deal that is worked out with the United States will probably not be honored by the current Afghan administration.
This roadside bombing comes one day after preliminary results of the presidential election show that Afghan President Ghani will be re-elected to a second term.