U.S. Soldier Killed in Afghanistan Just Over a Week After Trump Scraps Peace Talks

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WASHINGTON — An American Special Forces soldier was killed in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, according to Defense Department officials, a little more than a week after President Trump called off peace negotiations with the Taliban.

The soldier, who was killed while fighting alongside Afghan commandos in Wardak Province, is the 17th American service member to die during combat operations this year, the highest number of losses in a year since 2014, when the Pentagon announced the end of combat operations in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, the Defense Department identified the soldier as Sgt. First Class Jeremy W. Griffin, 40, from Greenbrier, Tenn., and said he was killed by small-arms fire. He served with 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State.

[“Even as we want it all to stop, we know on one level that it won’t.” Our reporter, a Marine who fought in Afghanistan, reflects on an unending war.]

This month, Sgt. First Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz and 11 other people were killed in a suicide bombing in Kabul. Mr. Trump cited Sergeant Ortiz’s death as one of the reasons he disinvited the Taliban leadership from the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland for talks. He later described the months of peace negotiations as “dead.”

Over the weekend, Mr. Trump tweeted that “killing 12 people, including one great American soldier, was not a good idea. There are much better ways to set up a negotiation. The Taliban knows they made a big mistake, and they have no idea how to recover!”

The death of the American Special Forces soldier on Monday came as the Taliban once again ramped up attacks across Afghanistan in the run-up to the country’s presidential elections and as the American general in charge of the command that oversees missions in Iraq and Afghanistan pledged to likely increase the pace of operations against the insurgent group.

The number of American airstrikes in the country is set to meet or possibly outpace those in 2018, and Special Operations units, alongside their Afghan counterparts, are aggressively attacking the Taliban in dozens of missions a week. Army Green Berets have made up the highest number of Americans dead this year, with nine killed in combat.

Although Mr. Trump has long said that he wanted to end the American military’s involvement in the country, it is unclear what his administration’s strategy will be in the 18-year war after the failed peace negotiations with the Taliban.

The White House had initially planned to start withdrawing troops from the country as part of a nearly-announced deal with the Taliban, a move that would have been synchronized with the 2020 campaign season.

Last week, Mr. Trump said that the Afghan government “will have to take responsibility” for its own security “at the earliest possible time.”

As it stands, the Afghan military has taken the brunt of casualties in the last five years and is heavily dependent on American air support. More than 50,000 Afghan security forces have been killed, with recently two dozen often dying a day.

The Afghan military is largely in a defensive posture, holding what territory the government controls while helping to secure roads between key cities such as Kabul, the capital, and other outlying cities in the country’s periphery.