Two American service members were killed and two others were wounded Saturday morning by an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in southern Afghanistan, according to the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan. The two U.S. military deaths are the first this year in Afghanistan and continue a trend of increasing violence against American troops in that country that made 2019 the deadliest for U.S. forces there in five years.
The service members were conducting operations in the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan as part of a NATO training and advisory mission, according to a statement from Resolute Support.
The Taliban have claimed credit for the explosion, according to an intelligence firm that monitors the social media of extremist groups.
In an English version of the Taliban’s Jan. 11 report, the Taliban claimed it destroyed an enemy tank and killed its occupants just west of the Kandahar air base. The message said the explosion left “all invaders killed and wounded.”
A NATO Resolute Support spokesperson confirmed the death of two U.S. service members and that two others were wounded in the IED incident.
The names of the service members killed in action are being withheld until 24 hours after the next of kin is notified, in accordance with Department of Defense policy.
The 20 U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan in 2019 made it the deadliest year for U.S. troops in that country in five years.
The number of American military fatalities had been comparatively low since the end of 2014 when the U.S. switched from a combat mission to the training and advisory mission.
But those numbers spiked last year as violence levels increased throughout the country.
There are about 13,000 American troops in Afghanistan, most of whom are involved in the training and advisory mission to help the Afghan security forces in their fight against the Taliban and the ISIS affiliate. The remainder are engaged in a counter-terrorism mission against those two groups.
The Trump administration restarted peace talks in December with the Taliban that had broken down in September following the death of a U.S. soldier in Kabul.
U.S. officials have said that the administration is considering a unilateral reduction in American forces down to 8,600 but that no presidential decision has been made.