DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. — Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Delaware late Tuesday night to visit with the families of two soldiers killed over the weekend by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan.
Standing alongside the deputy secretary of defense, Mr. Pence also witnessed the solemn ritual of transferring the remains of Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin, 29, of Newport News, Va., and Pfc. Miguel A. Villalon, 21, of Joliet, Ill. The men were killed Saturday while on patrol for the American-led NATO mission known as Resolute Support, the Pentagon said in a statement.
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack.
In a scene that was misty, quiet and somber compared with the raucous Trump campaign rally he had spoken at earlier Tuesday in Wisconsin, Mr. Pence stood with his hand on his heart as a white-gloved crew carried the flag-draped cases from the C-17 aircraft that brought them back to the United States.
“Let them be assured that America will never forget or fail to honor the service and sacrifice” of the two soldiers, Mr. Pence had told the crowd in Milwaukee, which fell momentarily silent.
The deaths of the two soldiers were the first American casualties of the year in Afghanistan, and came after tense talks between the Trump administration and the Taliban took a nose-dive. Mr. Trump abruptly called off peace talks in September after a Taliban attack killed an American soldier and 11 others. On a visit to Afghanistan in November, Mr. Trump said he had resumed negotiations, but the weekend attack leaves those talks in question.
In the 19 years since the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, more than 2,400 American troops have died in combat, according to the website icasualties.org.
The stop at Dover capped a day filled with a variety of appearances by the vice president, beginning with the swearing-in of Gen. John Raymond as the first chief of space operations on Tuesday morning in Washington.
Mr. Pence then traveled to Wisconsin, where he surprised diners at a Culver’s frozen custard restaurant.
“Wisconsin made a huge difference last time,” Mr. Pence told one couple. “The president’s on his way right now.”
Later, at the rally, the vice president toggled between conflicts in the Middle East. He said that Mr. Trump had taken decisive action in the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s most important military official, by ordering a drone strike this month on his convoy while it was leaving Baghdad International Airport. That decision has prompted scrutiny of the intelligence that Mr. Trump has said he drew from to green-light the killing.
Still, Mr. Pence said the president had acted with the military’s interests at heart.
“We suffered no casualties and Iran is standing down,” Mr. Pence said.
“That’s what leadership looks like, Wisconsin,” he added before leaving for Delaware.