DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - - Two U.S. service members were killed on Thursday battling Taliban insurgents in northern Afghanistan alongside local troops, NATO said, rare combat deaths for American forces who largely handed over securing the war-torn nation to Afghan troops some two years ago.
NATO described those killed and two other Americans wounded in the assault as being part of "a train, advise and assist mission" in Afghanistan's Kunduz province.
"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," U.S. Gen. John W. Nicholson said in a statement.
NATO declined to identify those killed, pending notification of the next of kin. NATO did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press to further clarify the American troops' mission in the area.
Taliban fighters briefly overran the city of Kunduz, the provincial capital with the same name, in early October, a show of strength by the insurgents that also highlighted the troubles facing local Afghan forces some 15 years after the U.S.-led invasion of the country. The Taliban captured and held parts of Kunduz a year earlier as well before the city was fully liberated weeks later with the help of U.S. airstrikes.
NATO's combat operations ended in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, a move that put Afghan forces in charge of the country's security. Since then, Afghan forces have suffered heavy casualties battling the Taliban, who have at times overrun provincial capitals before being pushed back.
In August, an American soldier was killed and another wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan' southern Helmand province. In January, a U.S. soldier was killed by small arms fire near the Marjah district, also in Helmand.