Two U.S. service members were killed Wednesday in southern Afghanistan when their convoy was attacked near Kandahar, the Pentagon said, bringing the total of U.S. troops killed in the country to nine this year — as many as were killed in all of 2016.
The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying a suicide bomber detonated a pickup truck packed with explosives near a NATO convoy, killing 15 soldiers in all. There was no confirmation of that claim.
The deadly incident follows a surge of attacks by the Taliban. The militants have hit district headquarters, government officials and Afghan National Security Forces in recent weeks.
The latest U.S. combat deaths also come as the Trump administration weighs whether to increase or cut back involvement in Afghanistan after 16 years of war.
The Pentagon has 8,400 troops deployed in Afghanistan to train and advise Afghan forces; most rarely participate in direct combat. The combined force with other NATO countries is about 13,500.
Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, wants 3,000 to 5,000 more troops to help train Afghan military and police forces as they battle Taliban insurgents, Islamic State militants and other militias, U.S. officials say.
That proposal has ran into headwinds from some advisers in the administration who question the goal of sending additional forces into a war that has dragged on so long without producing a clear result.
The attack came as Afghan authorities tightened security before a mass funeral for the victims of another suicide attack that killed 32 people and wounded dozens more at a mosque in western Herat province
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the mosque bombing. It said in a statement that two men fired automatic rifles at worshippers in the Shiite mosque before they detonated their bombs.
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