KABUL — An American service member was killed in combat operations in Afghanistan on Thursday, the U.S. military said, the third to be killed here in eight days.

Thursday’s death, which coincides with the final stages of peace talks between U.S. and Taliban negotiators in Qatar that could lead to the withdrawal of thousands of U.S. troops, brings the total number of U.S. service members killed by hostile forces in Afghanistan this year to 15.

The military announced the death Friday but has withheld the name of the service member until the family is notified.

Last week, two Army Special Forces soldiers were killed in small-arms fire in Faryab province. At the time, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told CBS News that their deaths would have a “positive impact” on the talks because they reinforced that “it is very necessary to put an end to the war.” 

There are about 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but President Trump said in an interview with Fox News Radio on Thursday that his administration plans to initially scale back the U.S. presence to 8,600 troops. About 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed since the war began in 2001. 

This week’s meetings in Doha mark the ninth round of talks between U.S. and Taliban officials in the past 10 months intended to put an end to 18 years of war.

Negotiators are now just days away from an unofficial Sept. 1 deadline to secure a deal. In June, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said making a deal before then is Washington’s “mission set.”

Before traveling to Doha this week, chief U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted he was ready to “close on remaining issues” in the talks. 

“We’re ready,” he wrote. “Let’s see if the Taliban are as well.”

Trump said Thursday that the United States is “getting close” to finalizing a deal with the Taliban.

A draft agreement outlined the initial withdrawal of 5,000 U.S. troops over the following months in exchange for the Taliban cutting ties with al-Qaeda. The United States is also asking the Taliban to agree to a cease-fire and include the Afghan government in intra-Afghan talks. The Taliban has thus far excluded President Ashraf Ghani’s government from peace negotiations, calling it a U.S. puppet regime. 

A presidential election is scheduled here for late September, and Ghani is up for a second five-year term. He has insisted on moving ahead with the election, even as critics raise concerns that doing so could hamper peace negotiations and put Afghan civilians at risk. The Taliban has threatened to attack voting sites, and election officials have said at least 2,000 sites will be closed due to insecurity.

On Thursday, Ghani’s top competition, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, said he would be willing “to quit elections for the sake of peace.” Ghani previously told ToloNews he would not allow the Taliban to interfere with the democratic process and plans to “save the system at any cost.”