KABUL: A massive explosion shook downtown Kabul on Monday night, killing at least five people in an attack claimed by the Taliban near an international complex, while the US special envoy leading the talks with the insurgents visited The Afghan capital
It occurred while Afghanistan’s main television station, Tolo News, broadcast an interview with US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who was discussing a possible deal with the Taliban Islamist extremist who would see the United States withdraw forces from five bases in Afghanistan.
Shots could be heard after the explosion along with a secondary explosion when a nearby service station caught fire, sending columns of smoke to the night sky.
“So far, five bodies and 50 wounded, all civilians, have been evacuated from the area,” Rahimi said, noting that the number could increase.
Green Village is separated from the nearby Green Zone, a walled and fortified part of Kabul that houses several embassies, including facilities in the United States and Great Britain.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujadid said a coordinated attack was being carried out with a suicide bomber and armed men.
Khalilzad, who has spent nearly a year negotiating with the Taliban, told Tolo that the withdrawal of US bases would occur within four months after the approval of a final agreement, provided the Taliban fulfill their commitments.
The possible agreement focuses on the reduction of US troops in exchange for several Taliban security guarantees, as well as broader peace talks between the insurgents and the Afghan government and an eventual ceasefire.
“We have agreed that if conditions proceed according to the agreement, we will leave within five days five bases on which we are present now,” said the US envoy born in Afghanistan in Dari.
But even when negotiations for an agreement between the US UU. And the Taliban have entered what are considered to be the final stages, violence has increased throughout Afghanistan.
- “Threshold” of an agreement –
Khalilzad was in Kabul after the last round of talks with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, after which he said the two sides were at the “threshold” of an agreement.
He met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Monday and showed him the draft of a proposed agreement.
Even if many of the approximately 13,000 US soldiers in Afghanistan leave shortly after a final agreement, President Donald Trump last week said the United States would maintain a permanent presence, with 8,600 soldiers initially.
Khalilzad’s discussions with Ghani are key because so far the Afghan government has been largely marginalized from the talks, although any possible agreement would require the Taliban to speak with the Afghan leader.
The chief executive of Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah, said in a statement that he had also been informed and assured of “a deep and sustainable peace in Afghanistan.”
Ghani appointed a 15-member delegation to meet with the Taliban in the “intra-Afghan” talks scheduled to take place in Norway in the coming weeks.
On Sunday, Khalilzad said the United States and the Taliban were reaching an agreement that would reduce violence and pave the way for a “sustainable” peace.
Afghan officials said Pul-e Khumri had been released from the Taliban insurgents and that the fight had been restricted to the outskirts.