Two US service personnel killed in Afghanistan

The killings occurred a day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a visit to Kabul

In this photo taken on June 6, 2019, US troops are seen through a firing position at the Afghan National Army (ANA) checkpoint in Nerkh district of Wardak province west of Kabul. A skinny tangle of razor wire snakes across the entrance to the Afghan army checkpoint, the only obvious barrier separating the soldiers inside from any Taliban fighters that might be nearby. - To go with 'AFGHANISTAN-CONFLICT-MILITARY-US,FOCUS' by Thomas WATKINS
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Two American service members were killed on Wednesday in Afghanistan, the US military said.

The killings occurred a day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a quick visit to the Afghan capital of Kabul, where he said Washington was hopeful of reaching a peace deal before September.

It’s not clear if the deaths were the result of the war, which at almost 18 years is America’s longest-running.

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

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, walks from a helicopter with U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass, Tuesday, June 25, 2019, as Pompeo returns to his plane after an unannounced visit to Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool) / AFP / POOL / Jacquelyn Martin
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and US ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass arrive in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday. AFP

Efforts to find a peaceful end to Afghanistan’s protracted war accelerated last year with the appointment of US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. He will begin a fresh round of direct talks with the Taliban on Saturday in Qatar, where the Islamist movement maintains a political office.

Mr 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 scuppered earlier this year because neither side could agree on participants.

The Taliban have refused to hold direct talks with the Afghan government, calling them US puppets, but have said they would talk with politicians if they arrive at the meeting in a personal capacity, as ordinary Afghans.

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

The US military statement announcing the killings of the US personnel was a terse two-paragraph announcement. It also said the identities of the soldiers would not be released until their families had been notified.