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2 U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan day after Pompeo visits, says peace deal with Taliban possible by September

AFGHANISTAN-UNREST
In a file photo taken July 7, 2018, U.S. Army soldiers look on as U.S. flag flies at a checkpoint during a patrol against ISIS militants at the Deh Bala district in Afghanistan's eastern province of Nangarhar. Getty

Kabul, Afghanistan -- The U.S. military said two service members were killed Wednesday in Afghanistan, but did not offer any details surrounding the circumstances of their deaths. The killings occurred a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a quick visit to the Afghan capital of Kabul where he said Washington was hopeful of a peace deal before Sept. 1.

It's not clear if the deaths were the result of fighting in the war, which at nearly 18 years is America's longest running. The U.S. military statement announcing the killings was a terse two paragraph announcement that provided no detail on the circumstances. It said the identities of the soldiers would not be released until their families had been notified.

More than 2,400 U.S. service personnel have died in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led coalition invaded in October 2001 to oust the Taliban and hunt down al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Efforts to find a peaceful end to Afghanistan's protracted war accelerated last year with the appointment of U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who will begin a fresh round of direct talks with the Taliban on Saturday in the Middle Eastern state of Qatar, where the religious movement maintains a political office.

ISIS is expanding in Afghanistan to target U.S., AP reports

Khalilzad has held a series of meetings in Kabul as well in an effort to reschedule an Afghan-to-Afghan round of talks, which were scuttled earlier this year because neither side could agree on participants.

The Taliban have refused to hold direct talks with the Afghan government, calling them U.S. puppets, but have said they would talk with members of the government if they arrive at the meeting as ordinary Afghans.

Before leaving Afghanistan for India, Pompeo on Tuesday underscored Khalilzad's strategy in the talks, which involves four interconnected issues: counterterrorism, foreign troop presence, inter-Afghan dialogue and a permanent cease-fire.

Afghanistan-US-Pompeo
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center left, walks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's Chief of Staff Abdul Salam Rahimi, as he arrives at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 25, 2019, during an unannounced visit. Getty

"With so much going on in the world right now it's sometimes easy to forget about America's commitment here to Afghanistan, but the world should know that the Trump administration has not forgotten, the American people have not forgotten," Pompeo said.

"While we've made clear to the Taliban that we're prepared to remove our forces, I want to be clear, we've not yet agreed on a timeline to do so," he added Pompeo. "We agree that peace is our highest priority and that Afghanistan must never again serve as a platform for international terrorism."