U.S. service members operating in a NATO mission came under fire from the Taliban in northern Afghanistan. About 30 civilians are reported to have been killed after airstrikes hit the area.
UPDATE: 4 November 2016, 2:37 PM EST.
The Defense Department has identified the U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan Nov. 3 as Capt. Andrew D. Byers, 30, of Rolesville, North Carolina, and Sgt. 1st Class Ryan A. Gloyer, 34, of Greenville, Pennsylvania. They were both assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Carson, Colorado.
WASHINGTON – Two United States troops were killed and four others were wounded while fighting the Taliban in northern Afghanistan Thursday, the U.S. military said, and local officials said the battle also resulted in the deaths of dozens of civilians.
The U.S. service members, operating under the banner of NATO’s Resolute Support mission, came under fire during a “train, advise and assist” mission with Afghan security forces during an operation to clear a Taliban position in the contested district of Kunduz.
About 30 civilians are reported to have been killed after airstrikes hit the area. A spokesperson for Kunduz Governor Asadullah Omarkhel told NBC News that during the hostilities, the Afghan forces fighting alongside the NATO troops called in airstrikes.
The series of events that led to the airstrikes is unclear, but Resolute Support confirmed that the mission did conduct airstrikes and is investigating claims of civilian casualties.
Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, a spokesperson for the NATO effort in Afghanistan, said friendly forces had come under direct fire and airstrikes were conducted to defended themselves. “We take all allegations of civilian casualties very seriously,” he said in a statement.
The spokesperson for the governor told NBC that four Afghan special operations forces were killed and six were injured, along with 26 Taliban fighters killed and 17 injured.
“Today’s loss is heartbreaking and we offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of our service members who lost their lives today. Our wounded soldiers are receiving the best medical care possible and we are keeping them and their families in our thoughts today, as well,” General John W. Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, said in a statement announcing the U.S. casualties.
“Despite today’s tragic event, we are steadfast in our commitment to help our Afghan partners defend their nation.”
The city of Kunduz was briefly captured by the Taliban in late 2015, and has remained a contested district.
During the fight to take the territory back, a U.S. AC-130 gunship mistakenly targeted a Doctors Without Borders hospital, killing at least 42 people. The U.S. military later conducted a review of the incident and concluded that human errors, fatigue, process and equipment failures led to the mistaken targeting.
Approximately 63.4 percent of the Afghanistan’s districts are under government control or influence as of August, and within that area 68 to 70 percent of the population resides, according to a recent U.S. watchdog report.
President Barack Obama formally ended the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan in December 2014, but about 9,800 U.S. troops remain in the country conducting two separate missions: a train, advise and assist mission – to bolster Afghan forces against the Taliban – and a counterterrorism mission to target other terrorist groups, including ISIS.