2 US soldiers killed, 2 wounded in Kunduz, Afghanistan

FILE PHOTO: Medics carry a stretcher with a heavily wounded US soldier, Afghanistan. / AFP
Two US soldiers have been killed and two were wounded in action during a raid on Taliban positions in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz, the commander of the American task force in Afghanistan said in a statement.

The US troops came under fire while conducting a joint operation with Afghan forces to clear a Taliban position and disrupt the group’s operations in the Kunduz district, General John W. Nicholson, commander of US Forces in Afghanistan (USFOR-A), said on Thursday.

No other details regarding the operation were immediately available. The Pentagon has withheld the names of the soldiers due to “pending next-of-kin notification,” but said additional information would be released later.

Taliban militants have intensified their attacks in various parts of Afghanistan, including Kunduz probince. In October, Afghan troops fought to regain control of the city of Kunduz after Taliban fighters pushed into the center of the provincial capital that they had briefly captured last year.

The fall of Kunduz in 2015 has been one of the most serious defeats to the Western-backed Kabul government since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

In August, Stratfor, a US-based private intelligence agency, said in a report that Taliban fighters are now operating in more Afghan territories than prior to the 2001 US invasion. They have made those territorial gains despite the efforts of the Western-trained Afghan army and US troops to push forward in other provinces.

Despite racking up some minor successes in several parts of the country, some military experts believe the Afghan military is incapable of containing the Taliban due too poor training and cuts in logistics, armament, and modern weapons systems.

Over the past few months, Afghanistan has seen numerous deadly terror attacks, which are believed to have been orchestrated by the Taliban and other terrorist groups. In September, 30 people were killed and up to 103 injured in twin blasts near the Afghan Defense Ministry in the middle of a crowded Kabul neighborhood.

In late July, an explosives-laden truck hit an international hotel in the Afghan capital, though it failed to inflict any civilian casualties.

Just one week earlier, at least 80 people were killed and 231 injured when a huge blast claimed by the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) rocked a mass demonstration in Kabul.

In late September, General Nicholson admitted that the Taliban controls over 10 percent of the country’s population and the Afghan forces that took over from the US in 2014 remain under constant pressure from the militants.

International Criminal Court ‘about to probe US war crimes in Afghanistan’ – report

Meanwhile, the Afghan government and some top-tier Taliban figures have reportedly resumed negotiations in order to reach a peace solution. An earlier attempt to hash out a settlement ended in 2016 when the group’s late leader, Mullah Mansour, was killed in a US drone strike.

The latest round of talks took place in the Qatari capital of Doha, although some hawkish factions within the Taliban have openly accused the Afghan government of being a “puppet regime,” while continuing their ground offensives in the country’s north and northeast.