A U.S. service member was killed during combat operations Monday in Afghanistan, according to military officials.

Officials with Resolute Support and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan provided no other details surrounding the death of the U.S. service member.

Twenty American troops have been killed in Afghanistan in 2019 during combat operations — at least three deaths were not the result of hostile action.

This has been one of the deadliest years for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the U.S. scaled down combat operations and kicked off the train and advise mission known as Resolute Support in 2015.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, said the U.S. service member was killed in an explosion during an operation in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan.

The U.S. is amid peace talks with Taliban to end America’s longest war.

Trump’s envoy leading the talks, Zalmay Khalilzad, tweeted Dec. 18 that peace talks were “approaching an important stage.”

President Donald Trump briefly ended talks with the Taliban in September following the death of a U.S. service member.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has said that a potential drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan is not necessarily tied to the success of negotiations with the Taliban.

There are currently about 13,000 U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, hinted during a visit to Kabul Dec. 16 that Trump may reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 8,600.

Esper told reporters Dec. 16 that he has not yet issued any orders to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan, but he explained that a reduced footprint with or without a settled peace agreement with the Taliban was still a possibility.

Esper also said last week he would like to reduce the footprint in Afghanistan and redeploy those forces to the Indo-Pacific to confront China.

The identity of the service member is being withheld pending next of kin notification, Resolute Support said in a news release.

Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.

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