Tal­iban at­tack Kabul as US en­voy says deal al­most fi­nal

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD - By Rahim Faiez and Cara Anna

KABUL, Afghanista­n — The Tal­iban claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for a large ex­plo­sion in the Afghan cap­i­tal Mon­day night, just hours af­ter a U.S. en­voy briefed the Afghan gov­ern­ment on an agree­ment “in prin­ci­ple” with the in­sur­gent group that would see 5,000 U.S. troops leave the coun­try in five months.

In­te­rior Min­istry spokesman Nas­rat Rahmi con­firmed that the tar­get of the blast was the Green Vil­lage com­pound, an area that is home to sev­eral in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions and guest­houses.

An­other in­te­rior min­istry of­fi­cial, Ba­har Ma­her, told the lo­cal TOLO news chan­nel that the blast was caused by a car bomb.

Fir­daus Fara­marz, a spokesman for Kabul’s po­lice chief, con­firmed that civil­ians were among the ca­su­al­ties but said it was too early to say how many. At least 34 wounded peo­ple were taken to the nearby Wazir Ak­bar Khan hos­pi­tal, said Dr. Neza­mudin Jalil, an of­fi­cial with the pub­lic health min­istry.

Associated Press video showed blood­ied peo­ple stream­ing into a hos­pi­tal.

Green Vil­lage, home to many for­eign­ers and heav­ily guarded by Afghan forces and pri­vate se­cu­rity guards, has been a fre­quent tar­get.

The com­pound was hit by a sui­cide car bomber in Jan­uary who killed at least four peo­ple and wounded scores. That blast oc­curred when the U.S. en­voy, Zal­may Khalilzad, was vis­it­ing the cap­i­tal to brief the Afghan gov­ern­ment on his ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Tal­iban on end­ing Amer­ica’s long­est war.

Mon­day’s lat­est blast oc­curred dur­ing the fi­nal min­utes of a na­tion­ally tele­vised in­ter­view with Khalilzad on what a U.S.-Tal­iban deal might mean for Afghanista­n’s fu­ture.

Ear­lier on Mon­day, Khalilzad showed a draft deal to the Afghan pres­i­dent af­ter declar­ing that they are “at the thresh­old of an agree­ment” fol­low­ing the end of the ninth round of U.S.-Tal­iban talks in Qatar.

The agree­ment still needs Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ap­proval.

Re­flect­ing the sen­si­tiv­ity of the ne­go­ti­a­tions and the Afghan gov­ern­ment’s side­lined role in the talks so far, it was not clear whether Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani was given the draft to keep.

“We have reached an agree­ment with the Tal­iban in prin­ci­ple but of course un­til the U.S. pres­i­dent agrees with it, it isn’t fi­nal,” Khalilzad told TOLO news.

He said that un­der the deal, the first 5,000 U.S. troops would with­draw within 135 days from five bases in Afghanista­n.

Trump last week told Fox News the U.S. plans to re­duce its troop pres­ence to 8,600 and then “make a de­ter­mi­na­tion from there.”

The re­duc­tion would bring troop lev­els down to roughly where they were when Trump took of­fice in Jan­uary 2017.

A fur­ther troop with­drawal is ex­pected to de­pend on the Tal­iban meet­ing con­di­tions of the deal, in­clud­ing a re­duc­tion in vi­o­lence.

The Tal­iban are at their strong­est since the U.S.-led in­va­sion to top­ple their gov­ern­ment af­ter the Sept. 11, 2001 at­tacks on the United States, and now con­trol or hold sway over roughly half the coun­try. The Tal­iban want all of the es­ti­mated 20,000 U.S. and NATO forces to leave Afghanista­n and al­ready por­tray their depar­ture as the in­sur­gents’ vic­tory.

RAHMAT GUL/AP

Wounded men re­ceive treat­ment in a hos­pi­tal af­ter an ex­plo­sion in Kabul, Afghanista­n, on Mon­day. The Tal­iban claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the ex­plo­sion.

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