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US soldier is killed in Afghanistan; Taliban claim attack


In this file photo taken on June 6, 2019 US soldiers look out over hillsides during a visit of the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan General at the Afghan National Army (ANA) checkpoint in Nerkh district of Wardak province. -An American service member was killed in action in Afghanistan on December 23, 2019, US officials said. _AFP


Kabul: An American service member was killed in combat Monday in Afghanistan, the US military said, without providing further details, while the Taliban claimed they were behind a roadside bombing in northern Kunduz province that killed the US soldier.

The latest fatality brings the number of US deaths in Afghanistan this year to 20.              

There have also been three non-combat deaths in 2019.

More than 2,400 Americans have died in the nearly 18-year conflict.

The Taliban now control or hold sway over practically half of Afghanistan but continue to stage near-daily attacks targeting Afghan and US forces, as well as government officials even as they hold peace talks with a US envoy tasked with negotiating an end to what has become America's longest war.

Scores of Afghan civilians are also killed in the crossfire or by roadside bombs planted by militants.

Monday's US military statement did not identify the US soldier or say where in Afghanistan the service member was killed.

It said that in accordance with US Department of Defense policy, names of service member killed in action are being withheld for 24 hours, until the notification of the family is completed.

Last month, two US service members were killed in Afghanistan when their helicopter crashed in eastern Logar province.

The Taliban also claimed responsibility for that crash, saying they had downed the helicopter, causing many fatalities.

The US military dismissed the Taliban claim as false.

Shortly after the US military statement on Monday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted that the US soldier was killed in the Chardara district in northern Kunduz province where US and Afghan forces were carrying out a joint raid.

Mujahid said the insurgents had planted roadside bomb that killed the service member.

The US military did not immediately respond to the Taliban claim.

The Taliban have a strong presence in Kunduz province and are completely in control of several of the province's districts.

The provincial capital, the city of Kunduz, briefly fell to the Taliban in 2015, before the insurgents withdrew in the face of a NATO-backed Afghan offensive.

The city is a strategic crossroads with easy access to much of northern Afghanistan as well as the country's capital, Kabul, about 200 miles (335 kilometers) away.

The following year, 2016, the Taliban pushed back into the city center, briefly raising their flag before gradually being driven out again.

In August this year they launched another attempt to overrun the city but were repelled.

Washington's peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been trying to hammer out a peace agreement with the Taliban for over a year.

The US wants the deal to include a promise from the Taliban that Afghanistan would not used as a base by any terrorist group.

Earlier this month, Khalilzad met with Taliban representatives in Qatar, where the insurgents maintain a political office, as the talks between the two sides resumed after a three-month halt by President Donald Trump following a particularly deadly wave of Taliban attacks, including a Kabul suicide bombing that killed an American soldier.

The Qatar meeting focused on getting a Taliban promise to reduce violence, with a permanent cease-fire being the eventual goal.

Khalilzad is trying to lay the groundwork for negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the protracted conflict but the Taliban refuse to talk directly with the Kabul government.

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