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Pentagon says soldier from NJ killed in Afghanistan

The Pentagon has announced that Sgt. 1st Class Michael James Goble, of Westwood, New Jersey, died Monday due to injuries sustained in combat on December 22 in Afghanistan

Goble's unit was engaged in combat operations in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, when he suffered fatal injuries, the Pentagon said. No other details were provided.

The Taliban has claimed they were behind a roadside bombing in northern Kunduz province that killed the U.S. soldier.

The latest fatality brings the number of U.S. deaths in Afghanistan this year to 20. There have also been three non-combat deaths in 2019. More than 2,400 Americans have died in the nearly 18-year conflict.

“Sgt. 1st Class Goble was more than just a member of the 7th Special Forces Group, he was a brother to us, and a beloved family member to the Northwest Florida community.” said Col. John W. Sannes, 7th SFG (A) commander. “We will honor our brother’s sacrifice and provide the best possible care to his family. We ask that you keep his Family and teammates in your thoughts and prayers.”

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Sgt. Goble was born on January 13, 1986 and was raised in Westwood, entering the United States Army as a Special Forces Candidate in 2004. He completed Basic Training, Advanced Individual Training, and the Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, then was assigned to U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he attended and graduated the Special Forces Qualification Course, earning the coveted Green Beret in February 2007.

Goble was then assigned as a Weapons Sergeant to Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th SFG (A). He deployed to Afghanistan from March through October 2007 and May 2008 through January 2009; Argentina in 2009; Guatemala in 2010 and Colombia in 2011. Goble served as a Sniper Instructor from March 2012 thru January 2016, and returned Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th SFG (A) as a Senior Intelligence Sergeant. From April thru May 2018, he deployed to the Republic of Korea, then to Colombia from July through September 2018.

The Taliban now control or hold sway over practically half of Afghanistan but continue to stage near-daily attacks targeting Afghan and U.S. forces, as well as government officials — even as they hold peace talks with a U.S. envoy tasked with negotiating an end to what has become America’s longest war. Scores of Afghan civilians are also killed in the crossfire or by roadside bombs planted by militants.

Last month, two U.S. service members were killed in Afghanistan when their helicopter crashed in eastern Logar province. The Taliban also claimed responsibility for that crash, saying they had downed the helicopter, causing many fatalities. The U.S. military dismissed the Taliban claim as false.

Shortly after the U.S. military statement on Monday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted that the U.S. soldier was killed in the Chardara district in northern Kunduz province where U.S. and Afghan forces were carrying out a joint raid. Mujahid said the insurgents had planted roadside bomb that killed the service member. He even tweeted a purported photo ID of the slain U.S. soldier, without saying how it was obtained.

The U.S. military would not immediately comment on the tweet or the Taliban claim.

The Taliban have a strong presence in Kunduz province and are completely in control of several of the province’s districts. The provincial capital, the city of Kunduz, briefly fell to the Taliban in 2015, before the insurgents withdrew in the face of a NATO-backed Afghan offensive. The city is a strategic crossroads with easy access to much of northern Afghanistan as well as the country’s capital, Kabul, about 200 miles (335 kilometers) away.

The following year, 2016, the Taliban pushed back into the city center, briefly raising their flag before gradually being driven out again. In August this year they launched another attempt to overrun the city but were repelled.

Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been trying to hammer out a peace agreement with the Taliban for over a year. The U.S. wants the deal to include a promise from the Taliban that Afghanistan would not used as a base by any terrorist group.

Earlier this month, Khalilzad met with Taliban representatives in Qatar, where the insurgents maintain a political office, as the talks between the two sides resumed after a three-month halt by President Donald Trump following a particularly deadly wave of Taliban attacks, including a Kabul suicide bombing that killed an American soldier.

The Qatar meeting focused on getting a Taliban promise to reduce violence, with a permanent cease-fire being the eventual goal.

Khalilzad is trying to lay the groundwork for negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the protracted conflict but the Taliban refuse to talk directly with the Kabul government.

Meanwhile, a bomb went off on Monday morning at the funeral of a village elder in eastern Laghman province, killing at least three civilians and wounding seven, according to Asadullah Dawlatzai, the provincial governor’s spokesman. He said the explosion took place in the district of Dawlat Shah.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but the spokesman blamed the Taliban.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.