Bomb claimed by Taliban kills two U.S. troops in Afghanistan

Two U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan Saturday in a roadside bombing attack that was claimed by the Taliban in the southern part of the country.

The U.S.-led coalition in Kabul said in a statement that the service members were killed and two others injured when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in Kandahar Province. It did not identify the casualties, in line with Defense Department guidelines.

The Taliban confirmed they were behind the attack, with Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, a spokesman, taking responsibility in statements to media outlets. 

Over 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan, including 23 last year.

The Taliban now control or hold influence in roughly half of the country and continue to stage attacks on local and international forces despite ongoing peace talks with Washington.

The Trump administration has been negotiating with the Taliban for roughly a year as it tries to end America’s longest war. The outlines of a deal are expected to involve a troop drawdown by the U.S. in exchange for assurances from the Taliban that it would not allow Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven for terrorist groups to launch attacks. 

Talks were recently resumed after a pause following a September attack by the group killed 12 people, including a U.S. soldier. 

“The Taliban wants to make a deal — we’ll see if they make a deal. If they do they do, and if they don’t they don’t. That’s fine,” President Trump said during a November meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“The Taliban wants to make a deal and we’re meeting with them and we’re saying it has to be a cease-fire and they didn’t want to do a cease-fire and now they do want to do a cease-fire,” he added. “I believe it’ll probably work out that way.” 

Trump’s remarks about a ceasefire last week reportedly sent aides scrambling to determine if the White House had moved the goal posts in negotiations and if the U.S. had the leverage to extract such a promise from the Taliban.