Two U.S. service members died in Afghanistan in a helicopter crash on Nov. 20, the U.S. military in Kabul said in a statement.
The statement read, “The cause of the crash is under investigation, however preliminary reports do not indicate it was caused by enemy fire.”
In accordance with Defense Department policy, the U.S. military said the names of the service members would not be disclosed until 24 hours after their family have been notified.
Information on the military branch they’re from has also not been released.
Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, reportedly told the media that the helicopter was shot down in Logar Province in eastern Afghanistan at around 1 a.m. while fighting with the “invaders and their hirelings.”
But the U.S. military dismissed the Taliban’s claim as false, as they had not disclosed the time or location of the crash.
The two deaths mark the 19th U.S. deaths in Afghanistan this year—the highest yearly total since 2014 when the United States announced the end of combat operations in Afghanistan.
President Obama declared in 2014 that it was “time to turn the page on a decade in which so much of our foreign policy was focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” and had planned to withdraw the last American troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.
“We have to recognize Afghanistan will not be a perfect place, and it is not America’s responsibility to make it one,” Obama added. “The future of Afghanistan must be decided by Afghans.”
The New York Times reported that more than 2,400 American troops have died in Afghanistan since 2001 when the United States entered the country.
There are currently 13,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan who are mostly involved in a mission to train, advise, and assist Afghan security forces in their war against the Taliban and ISIS, according to ABC News.
The latest peace talks between the United States and the Taliban took place in early September.
The Trump administration has advocated the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
On Nov. 19, two Westerners abducted in Kabul three years ago were released in exchange for three Taliban leaders held by the Afghan government.
The Taliban reportedly also released 10 Afghan service members as part of their negotiations.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented on the exchange, saying, “I think they’ll build confidence, there are a handful more that we hope will happen in the next few days, some Afghan prisoners who we hope will be released, a handful things after that.”
“We hope they’ll begin to build a foundation that we can get comfortable that a peace and reconciliation process has an opportunity of being successful,” he added.
“We’ve been working hard at it, we’re still working hard at it.”