BAGHDAD: Two American soldiers have been killed during a mission in southern Iraq, the US military said on Saturday.
The fatalities raised to 4,450 the number of US soldiers who have died in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, according to an AFP tally based on data from an independent website.
“Two US service members were killed yesterday (Friday) while conducting operations in southern Iraq,” the military said in a statement without giving any other details.
Sixty members of the US military were killed in Iraq in 2010, according to icasualties.org, by far the smallest number since 2003.
Less than 50,000 US troops remain in the country, but a security agreement between Baghdad and Washington requires that they be withdrawn by the end of 2011.
The latest casualties came the same day as the top American military officer said on a visit to Baghdad that Iraq has just “weeks” to decide if it needs US troops to stay beyond the year-end deadline.
“It (talks) needs to start soon, very soon, should there be any chance of avoiding irrevocable logistics and operational decisions we must make in the coming weeks,” Admiral Michael Mullen said at a news conference at the US military's Victory Base Camp on Baghdad's outskirts.
Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said no request had been made by the Iraqi government for any American troop presence beyond 2011, and his remarks reiterated those of US Defence Secretary Robert Gates on a visit two weeks ago.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has named security as one of his top priorities, but his unity government remains deadlocked over appointments to key security portfolios.
Maliki has also told the American visitors that Iraqi forces were up to the task of ensuring security.