Taliban attack Kabul as US envoy says deal almost final
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.
Wounded men receive treatment in a hospital after an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the explosion.