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American service member killed in Afghanistan, U.S. military says

Kabul, Afghanistan — An American service member was killed in combat Monday in Afghanistan, the U.S. military said, while the Taliban claimed they were behind a roadside bombing in northern Kunduz province that killed the U.S. soldier. The U.S. Army Special Operations Command identified the soldier as Sergeant 1st Class Michael James Goble, 33, a U.S. Special Forces Soldier.

The latest fatality brings the number of U.S. 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 U.S. forces, as well as government officials - even as they hold peace talks with a U.S. 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.

According to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Goble was originally from Westwood, New Jersey. He joined the army in 2004, and earned the coveted Green Beret in 2007. He was previously deployed to Afghanistan in March thru October 2007 and May 2008 thru January 2009. He also served several overseas deployments in Argentina, Colombia and South Korea.

Sergeant 1st Class Michael James Goble was killed in Afghanistan on December 23, 2019.  U.S. Army Special Operations Command

The Taliban tweeted what it said was a photo of the dead troop's identity card, notes CBS News' Ahmad Mukhtar. The Taliban also claimed a second U.S. service member and an Afghan troop were seriously wounded.

The U.S. military wouldn't comment on the Taliban claims.

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 but 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 away.

The following year, 2016, the Taliban pushed back into the city center, briefly raising their flag before gradually being driven out again. This past August, they launched another attempt to overrun the city but were repelled. 

Last month, two U.S. service members were killed in Afghanistan when their helicopter crashed in eastern Logar province. The Taliban also claimed responsibility for that crash, saying they downed the helicopter, causing many fatalities. The U.S. military dismissed the Taliban claim as false.  

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

Meanwhile, a bomb went off on Monday morning at the funeral of a village elder in eastern Laghman province, killing at least three civilians and wounding seven, according to Asadullah Dawlatzai, the provincial governor's spokesman. He said the explosion took place in the district of Dawlat Shah.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but the spokesman blamed the Taliban. 

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