Military Helicopter crashed killing at least two soldiers onboard: Report

Military Helicopter crashed killing at least two soldiers onboard: Report

KABUL — Two American service members were killed Wednesday when their helicopter crashed in eastern Afghanistan while supporting combat operations, according to the U.S. military.

The military said the fatalities brought to 19 the number of U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan this year, adding that the incident is under investigation.

The Taliban said the helicopter was shot down as Afghan and U.S. forces were preparing to launch an attack in the area, according to a statement from Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman.

The 19 service members killed so far this year by hostile forces surpasses the total of 13 who died in 2018. About 2,400 have died in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001. In August, two Army Special Forces soldiers died of wounds suffered in small-arms fire in Faryab province. Another service member died in a suicide bombing in Kabul in September that prompted President Trump to break off talks with the Taliban.

The Trump administration is intent on bringing home link bulk of U.S. forces by next year. But efforts to negotiate a peace deal to facilitate the withdrawal were scuttled in September. Since then, top U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad has sought to restart talks by negotiating a prisoner swap as goodwill gesture.

On Tuesday, an Australian and an American were freed from Taliban custody, and the Afghan government released three high-profile militants linked to the Taliban.

Over the past year, the United States reduced its troop strength unilaterally, cutting 2,000 troops and bringing the total number of American troops in Afghanistan down to about 13,000. - Washington Post