Pentagon says New Jersey soldier killed in Afghanistan

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File- in this Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. Photo, Resolute Support (RS) forces remove a destroyed vehicle after a car bomb explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan. An American service member was killed in action on Monday in Afghanistan the U.S. military said in a statement without providing more details. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, file)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A 33-year-old American soldier was killed in combat Monday in Afghanistan, the U.S. military said. The Taliban claimed they were behind a fatal roadside bombing in northern Kunduz province.

In a statement Monday night, the Pentagon identified the casualty as Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Goble of Washington Township, New Jersey. Goble was assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

Goble’s unit was engaged in combat operations in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, when he suffered fatal injuries, the Pentagon said. No other details were provided.

Twenty U.S. deaths have been recorded in Afghanistan this year. There have also been three noncombat deaths in 2019. More than 2,400 Americans have died in the nearly 18-year conflict.

The Taliban now control or hold sway over practically half of Afghanistan but continue to stage near-daily attacks targeting Afghan and U.S. forces, as well as government officials — even as they hold peace talks with a U.S. envoy tasked with negotiating an end to what has become America’s longest war. Scores of Afghan civilians are also killed in the crossfire or by roadside bombs planted by militants.

Last month, two U.S. service members were killed in Afghanistan when their helicopter crashed in eastern Logar province. The Taliban also claimed responsibility for that crash, saying they had downed the helicopter, causing many fatalities. The U.S. military dismissed the Taliban claim as false.

Shortly after the initial U.S. military statement on the latest fatality, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted that the U.S. soldier was killed in the Chardara district in northern Kunduz province where U.S. and Afghan forces were carrying out a joint raid. Mujahid said the insurgents had planted roadside bomb that killed the service member. He even tweeted a purported photo ID of the slain U.S. soldier, without saying how it was obtained.

The U.S. military did not comment on the tweet or the Taliban claim.

The Taliban have a strong presence in Kunduz province and are completely in control of several of the province’s districts. The provincial capital, the city of Kunduz, briefly fell to the Taliban in 2015, before the insurgents withdrew in the face of a NATO-backed Afghan offensive. The city is a strategic crossroads with easy access to much of northern Afghanistan as well as the country’s capital, Kabul, about 200 miles (335 kilometers) away.

The following year, 2016, the Taliban pushed back into the city center, briefly raising their flag before gradually being driven out again. In August this year they launched another attempt to overrun the city but were repelled.

Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been trying to hammer out a peace agreement with the Taliban for over a year. The U.S. wants the deal to include a promise from the Taliban that Afghanistan would not used as a base by any terrorist group.

Earlier this month, Khalilzad met with Taliban representatives in Qatar, where the insurgents maintain a political office, as the talks between the two sides resumed after a three-month halt by President Donald Trump following a particularly deadly wave of Taliban attacks, including a Kabul suicide bombing that killed an American soldier.

The Qatar meeting focused on getting a Taliban promise to reduce violence, with a permanent cease-fire being the eventual goal.

Khalilzad is trying to lay the groundwork for negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the protracted conflict but the Taliban refuse to talk directly with the Kabul government.

Meanwhile, a bomb went off on Monday morning at the funeral of a village elder in eastern Laghman province, killing at least three civilians and wounding seven, according to Asadullah Dawlatzai, the provincial governor’s spokesman. He said the explosion took place in the district of Dawlat Shah.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but the spokesman blamed the Taliban.

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