Pentagon identifies two U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Pentagon identifies two U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan
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The Defense Department on Thursday identified two U.S. Army soldiers who died Wednesday as Master Sgt. Luis F. DeLeon-Figueroa and Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez.

DeLeon-Figueroa, 31, of Chicopee, Mass., and Gonzalez, 35, of La Puente, Calif., were assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, and were killed in Faryab Province, Afghanistan, by small arms fire. The incident is being investigated, according to the Pentagon, which did not disclose the affiliation of who is believed to have killed them.

The two were in the country supporting the ongoing NATO mission Operation Freedom's Sentinel.

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The announcement of the deaths Wednesday, before the two were identified by name, brought the number of U.S. service members killed in combat in Afghanistan to the highest annual number since 2014.

The two were the 13th and 14th U.S. combat fatalities in Afghanistan in 2019. Two other U.S. fatalities in Afghanistan this year were not combat-related.

Thirteen servicemembers were killed in 2018, with 11 in 2017, nine in 2016, 10 in 2015 and about 40 in 2014.

The deaths came amid ongoing peace negotiations between the U.S. and Taliban forces, and indications of the threat of violence from other forces such as Afghanistan-based Islamic State fighters, who have taken credit for an attack on a wedding in Kabul that killed 80 people last weekend.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Pentagon waiting for Saudi assessment on attack | Defense bill talks begin | Border fight takes centerstage | Pentagon finalizes .5B in wall contracts | US withholds Afghan aid citing corruption House Armed Services panel gets classified briefing on Saudi attacks US withholds 0M in Afghan aid citing corruption MORE this week said there are “certainly places where ISIS is more powerful today than they were three or four years ago.”