Sunday, 22 September, 2019

White House Condemns Day-Long Taliban Attack That Killed At Least 6

Smokes rises after an explosion in Kabul on Monday Smokes rises after an explosion in Kabul on Monday
Patty Aguilar | 03 July, 2019, 13:30

Monday's "indiscriminate assault, which caused injuries to children at school, was particularly barbarous", US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. It began with a powerful vehicle bomb and lasted almost 10 hours as five gunmen holed up in a high-rise building fired into a nearby defense ministry building, which the militants said was the target of the attack.

President Ghani condemned Monday's attack, saying the Taliban "wanted to continue this war".

Pakistan has reportedly pressed the Taliban _ many of whom have homes in Pakistan _ into talks.

"Only Afghans themselves can decide the future of their country".

The latest talks between the United States and the Taliban meanwhile stretched into a third day.

According to a senior US defense official, however, there are still close to 14,000 USA troops in Afghanistan - a number that has remained fairly steady for many months.

Trump has long expressed interest in pulling out of Afghanistan, though some in the administration have been keen to keep troops in the country, and many in Congress have expressed discomfort with the idea of the war, the longest in USA history, ever ending.

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"This brazen attack demonstrates the Taliban's callous disregard for their fellow Afghans, who have repeatedly voiced the urgency of finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict", the White House statement added.

In the previous round of US-Taliban peace talks earlier this year, the two sides "agreed in draft" on the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in return for a Taliban guarantee that its elements would not attack US forces.

"Regarding terrorism, we've made real progress and are almost ready to conclude a draft text outlining the Taliban's commitments to join fellow Afghans in ensuring Afghan soil never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists", Pompeo said.

Sohail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban political office in Doha, said the group's key concern was to make sure a timeline for foreign troop pullout is announced.

The Qatar talks have focused on issues ranging from counter-terrorism and withdrawal of foreign troops to an intra-Afghan dialogue and a comprehensive ceasefire. He did not identify the guarantors.

Washington accelerated attempts to find a negotiated end to America's longest war with the appointment last September of Khalilzad, who was a special presidential representative to Afghanistan and later US ambassador in Kabul in the years immediately following the 2001 USA -led invasion that ousted the Taliban. The Taliban has continuously refused to meet the Afghan government, accusing it of being a puppet of the West.

Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, said this in a series of tweets following the ongoing seventh round of talks with the Taliban in the Qatari capital, Doha.

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