The soldier killed Thursday in Afghanistan has been identified by the Pentagon.

Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, was killed when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Barreto is the third U.S. soldier to die in Afghanistan in a little more than a week. A Romanian service member was also killed in the attack. Their deaths come as Taliban representatives and U.S. diplomats work to negotiate an end to the conflict.

The incident is under investigation, according to a Pentagon statement.

The ongoing attacks have caused some within the Afghan and U.S. governments to worry that any deal negotiated with the Taliban, whose spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack that killed Barreto, cannot be trusted.

He was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He went by the name Barreto rather than Ortiz, 82nd Airborne officials confirmed.

There have been 16 U.S. troops killed in action in Afghanistan this year, according to Defense Department figures. Another 86 American personnel have been wounded.

“With honor and courage, Sgt. 1st Class Barreto answered our nation’s call to deploy and serve in Afghanistan,” Col. Arthur Sellers, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, said in a statement. “In this most difficult time, his loved ones are now surrounded by a community of love and caring by members of our Paratrooper Family Readiness Group.”

Barreto joined the Army in August 2010 and completed basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Eustis, Virginia, before being assigned to the 359th Transportation Battalion, according to an 82nd Airborne Division release.

In 2013, he was assigned to the 51st Composite Truck Company at Baumholder, Germany, as a wheeled vehicle mechanic and deployed for nine months to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

In 2016, he was assigned to the 601st Aviation Support Battalion at Fort Riley, Kansas. He graduated from Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and was ultimately assigned to 82nd Airborne Division in January 2018.

His awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Combat Action Badge, the Basic Parachutist Badge and the Army Driver and Mechanic Badge.

Barreto is survived by his wife and children back home in Cameron, North Carolina.

The car bomb that killed Barreto detonated in eastern Kabul, near a neighborhood housing the U.S. Embassy, the NATO Resolute Support mission and other diplomatic missions.

This year has been the deadliest for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the mission to the country scaled down at the start of 2015 and changed names from Operation Enduring Freedom to Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

The U.S. military currently has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, alongside international troops, to advise and assist Afghan defense forces and to fight extremist groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaida.

President Donald Trump said he plans to withdraw thousands of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, but will keep 8,600 troops there for the foreseeable future, pending the outcome of U.S. peace talks with the Taliban, which appear to be in their final stages.

Drafts of the deal reportedly stipulate that the U.S. will withdraw its forces in exchange for assurances that the Taliban will not offer safe haven to terror groups like al-Qaida.

Kyle Rempfer was an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.

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