US forces say 2 American soldiers killed in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Two American service members were killed during an operation in Afghanistan on Friday, the U.S. and NATO forces said, providing no other details on the combat deaths.

The fatalities, which bring to four the number of U.S. soldiers killed so far this year in Afghanistan, underscore the difficulties in bringing peace to the war-wrecked country even as Washington has stepped up efforts to find a way to end the 17-year war, America's longest.

The U.S. and NATO Resolute Support mission said the names of the service members killed in action were being withheld until after notification of the next of kin, in accordance with U.S. Department of Defense policy. The statement also did not specify the location of the combat or say who the soldiers were fighting.

"The incident is under investigation and we have no additional information to provide," said Sgt. 1st Class Debra Richardson, a Resolute Support spokeswoman.

There are about 14,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan, supporting embattled Afghan forces as they struggle on two fronts — facing a resurgent Taliban who now hold sway over almost half the country and also the Islamic State affiliate, which has sought to expand its footprint in Afghanistan even as its self-proclaimed "caliphate" has crumbled in Syria and Iraq.

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Zarmina Ahmadi, 22, a female soldier from the Afghan National Army (ANA) aims her rifle during a military exercise at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Female soldiers from the Afghan National Army (ANA) take part in a training exercise at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A female soldier from Afghan National Army (ANA) loads ammunition into a rifle magazine before a shooting exercise at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Female Afghan soldiers Shreen Yawari, 24 (L), Zarmina Ahmadi, 22 (2nd L), Fatima Alimi, 21 (3nd L), and Zahra Sultani, 20 (R), rest after shooting exercises at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers carry their colleague, with a simulated injury, into an ambulance during a training exercise at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Sabera, 23, a soldier from the Afghan National Army (ANA) gestures during a shooting exercise at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers attend a lesson in a classroom at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 23, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Female soldiers from the Afghan National Army (ANA) attend a lesson in a classroom at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 23, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Zarmina Ahmadi, 22, a female soldier from the Afghan National Army (ANA) looks out from a bus window at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
First Lieutenant for the Afghan National Army (ANA), Zainab Baqiri Shayan, 24, speaks with her colleagues in the radio operating department at the Ministry of Defence in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Female soldiers Mohazama Najebi, 18 (R), and Sahar Ibrahimi, 25 (L), from the Afghan National Army (ANA) pose for a picture after shooting exercises at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Second Lieutenant Roshan Gul, 22 (L), First Lieutenant Nelofar Frotan, 23 (C), and Second Lieutenant Morsal Afshar, 22 (R), work at the human resources office in the Ministry of Defence in Kabul, Afghanistan October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Model soldiers are seen, in a class at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 23, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
First Lieutenant in the Afghan National Army (ANA), Zainab Baqiri Shayan, 24, poses for a picture at her radio operating desk in the Ministry of Defence in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Female soldiers from the Afghan National Army (ANA) play volleyball at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 23, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Female soldier, Parwana Naji, 19, from the Afghan National Army (ANA) at the gym at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 23, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Female soldiers Karima Mohamadi, 21 (L), and Tamana, 19 (R), from the Afghan National Army (ANA) clean their weapons at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Female soldier Mohazama Najebi, 18, from the Afghan National Army (ANA), prays inside a mosque at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Female soldiers Zarmina Ahmadi, 22 (L), Adela Haidari, 23 (C), and Sabera, 21 (R), from the Afghan National Army (ANA) rest in their barracks at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A female soldier from the Afghan National Army (ANA), Fatima Zahra Akbari, 19, waits for her turn to receive a weapon before shooting exercises at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Fatima Rezai, 21, a female officer from the Afghan National Army (ANA) practices with a punch bag during an exercise session at at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 23, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers collect their lunch at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 23, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Female soldiers from the Afghan National Army (ANA) wait to get food at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 23, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Female soldier Aghama Dehqanyar, 19 (L), prays inside a mosque at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Commander of female soldiers, Lieutenant Colonel Cobra Tanha, 45, stands in front of her soldiers at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 23, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Afghan soldier Tamana, 19 (L), and commander for female soldiers Lieutenant Colonel Cobra Tanha, 45 (R), simulate an injury during a training exercise at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Commander for female Afghan soldiers Lieutenant Colonel Cobra Tanha, 45, leaves her office at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 23, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail SEARCH "KABUL TRAINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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In 2001, after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and ousted the ruling Taliban regime in a matter of weeks. But the Taliban subsequently regrouped while Washington shifted its attention to Iraq's Saddam Hussein, and by 2009, the war had become a stalemate.

The Pentagon has recently been developing plans to withdraw up to half of the American forces still in the country while at the same time stepping up efforts and having the U.S. negotiate with the Taliban.

U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, the Trump administration's main negotiator with the Taliban, concluded earlier this month a 13-day marathon session with leaders of the insurgent group.

Following the talks, held in Qatar where the Taliban maintain an office, Khalilzad said the two sides reached two "draft agreements" covering the withdrawal of U.S. troops and guarantees that Afghanistan would not revert to a haven for terrorists.

But he was unable to persuade the Taliban to launch talks with the Afghan government. The Taliban have consistently refused to talk with the government in Kabul, describing it as a U.S. puppet.

The two sides seem to be in agreement about the withdrawal of American forces, but divided over the timeline and whether a residual American force would remain.

Last year, 13 U.S. service members were killed in Afghanistan.

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