US service member killed in Afghanistan

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A US service member was killed in combat in Afghanistan on Thursday, NATO-led international military coalition in Kabul said.

The announcement did not specify where the operation took place, the service branch of the fallen service member, nor details about the combat operation. The name is being withheld until the notification of next of kin is complete.

Two American service members, Master Sgt. Louis DeLeon-Figueroa, 31, and Master Sgt. Jose Gonzalez, 35, were killed in action in Afghanistan last week.

They died as a result of “wounds sustained from small arms fire while engaged in combat operations,” in Faryab province, Afghanistan, the Department of Defense said in a statement.

Both men, who were posthumously promoted to master sergeant, were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), based at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

News of another American casualty in Afghanistan comes one day after President Donald Trump said he is planning to withdraw thousands of US forces from the country but will keep 8,600 troops there, at least for the time being.

“We’re going down to 8,600 and then we make a determination from there as to what happens … we’re bringing it down,” Trump told Fox News Radio Thursday, again repeating that the US “could win that war so fast if I wanted to kill ten million people there … which I don’t.”

Trump met with top national security advisers earlier this month at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, to review a US-Taliban peace plan.

The US currently has about 14,000 service members in Afghanistan, alongside NATO troops, helping to train and advise Afghan troops and conducting counterterrorism operations. The peace plan is expected to formalize a significant withdrawal of US forces after nearly 18 years of war.

But Trump stressed that the US will maintain a troop presence in Afghanistan despite the withdrawal.

“You have to keep a presence,” he said Thursday, adding that the US would be reducing troops “very substantially.”

Trump also repeated a previous talking point, calling Afghanistan the “Harvard University of Terrorism” given its “rough, mountainous terrain.”

On Wednesday, the top US general said he is “not using the ‘withdraw’ word right now” in regards to Afghanistan, as US and Taliban negotiators reportedly near a deal.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said any agreement with the Taliban must ensure that Afghanistan does not become a “sanctuary” for extremists. “I think it’s premature, I’m not using the ‘withdraw’ word right now,” he said. “We’re going to make sure our, that Afghanistan’s not a sanctuary.”

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