2 American Service Members Killed In Afghanistan

Two U.S. service members were killed during an operation in Afghanistan Friday, the U.S.-led NATO Resolute Support mission in the country said in a brief statement.

Their names were being withheld in order to first notify family members.

It brings the total number of U.S. service members killed this year in the country to four, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Thirteen American service members were killed last year in Afghanistan.

About 14,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, a number President Trump plans to cut down by about half.

U.S. representatives have been trying to negotiate a settlement with the Taliban to bring an end to America's longest war. U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with Taliban representatives in Qatar earlier this month, reaching two "draft agreements," the AP reports.

Khalilzad has said that following months of earlier talks, he reached framework agreements with the Taliban to not allow terrorist groups to use Afghanistan as a location to stage attacks on the U.S. or U.S. allies. In exchange, the U.S. would agree to withdrawing forces.

The Taliban insists on a complete U.S. withdrawal, but representatives of the Afghan government want some continued U.S. presence. Ahmad Nader Nadery, who has advised Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, told NPR earlier this week that the government would like a "residual number" of U.S. forces present for counterterrorism operations, training and advice.

The Afghan government has been excluded from peace talks because the Taliban calls it a puppet of the U.S. government.

The Taliban has proved resurgent in recent years. A Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report in January said the Afghan government's control over territory decreased slightly while "insurgent" control increased slightly in mid-2018. The Afghan government controls or influences territory where 63.5 percent of the population lives and 53.8 percent of total districts as of October, the SIGAR report said. But a New York Times report found that the U.S. government understates the strength of the Taliban.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan's security forces and civilians continue to bear the brunt of deaths in the war. President Ghani said in January that 45,000 members of Afghanistan's security forces have died since September 2014, a monthly average of 849. And the United Nations said 3,804 civilians died in Afghanistan last year, more "than at any time since records have been kept."

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