June 26, 2019 / 4:24 AM / 20 days ago

Two U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan

KABUL (Reuters) - Two U.S. service members were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the NATO-led Resolute Support mission said in a statement.

It gave no further details and withheld the names of the service members until next of kin were informed. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the service members had been killed from gunshot wounds sustained during a joint patrol with Afghan security forces.

The latest fatalities bring the tally of U.S. service member deaths in Afghanistan to at least six in 2019 and at least 65 U.S. military deaths since January 2015, according to U.S. government and NATO reports.

The two deaths came less than 24 hours after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Kabul where he discussed ongoing peace efforts and security with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and senior politicians.

Pompeo said he hoped for a peace deal with the Taliban before Sept. 1, ahead of a presidential election in Afghanistan. The seventh round of peace talks between the United States and Taliban officials, aimed at ending the 18-year-long war, will start on June 29.

Both sides are expected to focus on Taliban demands for the withdrawal of foreign troops, most of them American, and a U.S. demand for an end to militant attacks plotted from Afghan soil.

About 20,000 foreign troops, most of them American, are in Afghanistan as part of a U.S.-led NATO mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces. Some U.S. forces carry out counter-terrorism operations.

A record 3,804 Afghan civilians were killed last year due to stepped-up air attacks by U.S-led forces and more suicide bombings, the United Nations said in a February report.

Reporting by Rupam Jain; additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington; editing by Michael Perry and James Dalgleish

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