Combat deaths in Afghanistan reach a five-year high

Combat deaths in Afghanistan reach a five-year high
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The Wednesday deaths of two U.S. service members in Afghanistan raise this year’s number of Americans killed in combat there to the highest annual total since 2014.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press that the two service members died in combat from small-arms fire, bringing the total number of 2019 U.S. combat related fatalities in Afghanistan to 14. Two additional American deaths in the country were not combat related.

The highest annual Afghan death toll for U.S. military personnel in the past five years had previously been 13 in 2018, with another 11 in 2017, nine in 2016 and 10 in 2015. Prior to that, about 40 service members were killed in 2014.

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The Obama administration in December 2014 formally ended the combat mission in Afghanistan, known as Operation Enduring Freedom. The operation, meant to defeat the Taliban — which harbored al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden — includes more than 2,350 U.S. military personnel deaths, with nearly 1,900 of those combat related, according to the Pentagon’s casualty statistics.

The deadliest year for American service members in Afghanistan since the war began was 2010, with nearly 500 military personnel deaths, 440 of which were combat related.

Roughly 14,000 U.S. military personnel are still in the country with about 8,500 of them part of the NATO-led Operation Freedom's Sentinel, providing air support as well as equipping and training Afghan forces fighting the Taliban.

The remaining troops are primarily special forces who carry out counterterrorism missions against al Qaeda and an affiliate of ISIS known as ISIS-K.

The Trump administration is currently in the midst of peace talks with the Taliban to end the nearly 19-year war in the country, though there are concerns that a peace deal would not halt regional violence after ISIS-K claimed responsibility for an attack on a Saturday wedding in Kabul that killed 80 people.