KABUL, Sept 5, (AP): A Taleban suicide car bomb rocked Kabul on Thursday, killing at least 10 civilians in a busy diplomatic area that includes the US Embassy – the second such attack this week that underscored Afghan government warnings that a preliminary USTaleban deal on ending America’s longest war was moving dangerously quickly. “Peace with a group that is still killing innocent people is meaningless,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement.
Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said another 42 people were wounded and 12 vehicles destroyed in the explosion. Hours later, the Taleban set off a car bomb outside an Afghan military base in a neighboring province, killing four civilians. The Taleban said that in the Kabul attack, they targeted vehicles of “foreigners” as they tried to enter the heavily guarded Shashdarak area where Afghan national security authorities have offices.
The NATO Resolute Support mission is nearby, and British soldiers were at the scene, retrieving what appeared to be the remains of a NATO vehicle. Neither the NATO mission nor the British high commission commented on the attack. Footage widely shared on social media showed the suicide bomber’s vehicle turning into the checkpoint and exploding – and a passer-by trying to sprint away just seconds before. “We all saw on security camera who were targeted!” presidential spokesman Sediq Seddiqi tweeted. Once again, stunned civilians were the victims, though US Ambassador John Bass in his condemnation of the attack said “members of security forces” were among the dead. “I don’t know who brought us to the hospital and how,” said one of the wounded, Nezamuddin Khan, who was knocked unconscious and woke up in a local hospital. The explosion at the checkpoint, which has been targeted in the past, follows a Taleban attack against a foreign compound late Monday that killed at least 16 people and wounded more than 100, almost all of them local civilians. An Associated Press reporter on the phone with the US Embassy when Thursday’s blast occurred heard sirens begin blaring there.
Hours later, the Taleban claimed responsibility for a car bombing outside an Afghan military base in the Logar provincial capital, Puli Alam, which houses members of the Afghan special forces. Provincial council chief Haseebullah Stanekzai said a small number of international forces also had been in the area. Governor Anwar Khan Es-Haqzai said four civilians were killed and four others wounded.
US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been in Kabul this week briefing Ghani and other Afghan leaders on the US-Taleban deal to end nearly 18 years of fighting that he says only needs President Donald Trump’s approval to become a reality. Khalilzad has not commented publicly on this week’s attacks.
The Afghan government has raised serious concerns about the deal, including in new comments on Thursday as the latest attack occurred. The agreement was moving with “excessive speed,” presidential adviser Waheed Omer told reporters, warning of difficult days ahead. “Afghans have been bitten by this snake before,” Omer said, recalling past agreements from which, like now, the Afghan government has been sidelined.
“Where there is no feeling of ownership there is no safety,” he said. The Taleban, at their strongest since their 2001 defeat by a US-led invasion, have refused to negotiate with the government, calling it a US puppet. The Afghan government on Wednesday said it shares the concerns raised by several former US ambassadors to Afghanistan, who warned that a full US troop withdrawal that moves too quickly and without requiring the Taleban to meet certain conditions, such as reducing violence, could lead to “total civil war” such as the one that engulfed the country in the 1990s, before the Taleban swept into power.
Khalilzad has said 5,000 US troops would withdraw from five bases in Afghanistan within 135 days of a final deal. Between 14,000 and 13,000 troops are currently in the country. However, the Taleban want all of the approximately 20,000 US and NATO troops out of Afghanistan immediately, while the US seeks a withdrawal in phases that would depend on the Taleban meeting certain conditions, such as a reduction in violence.