As ‘Peace Process’ Continues, Taliban Terrorists Kill Six

By Patrick Goodenough | July 2, 2019 | 4:31am EDT
Smoke rises from the site of Monday’s terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – Scores of children were reported to be among the injured when the Taliban detonated a car bomb near government buildings in Kabul on Monday, killing at least six people. It is the latest violent attack to take place even as U.S. and Taliban representatives are holding direct talks aimed at ending the long conflict.

Following the rush-hour bombing, gunmen holed up in a building and a seven-hour gun battle with security forces ensued, eventually ending with the deaths of five terrorists.

Officials said four civilians and two security force members were killed in the attack, and that among more than 115 people injured were at least 50 children from two nearby schools, who were hurt by flying glass.

The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying its fighters had targeted a defense ministry logistics building. Also in the vicinity are several government buildings, the headquarters of the Afghan Football Federation, a television station, and the schools.

The U.N. children’s agency UNICEF deplored the wounding of “children during one of their most mundane and important routines: Being at school.”

“Schools should be havens of peace. Violence in or around schools is never acceptable,” said the agency’s executive director, Henrietta Fore. “An already dire security situation in Afghanistan has recently been getting worse. This violence, which keeps blighting futures and claiming young lives, must end.”

UNICEF urged “all parties to the conflict” to end the violence and protect children.

President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement issued through his spokesman that “today’s attack shows that the Taliban still have no respect for peace.”

Even stronger words came from Afghanistan’s chief executive Abdullah Abdullah.

“The Taliban’s terrorist attack near the Football Federation today in Kabul showcases the group’s inherent criminal nature,” he tweeted. “We will not be deterred by such outrage to pursue & punish the miscreants. Well done to our heroic security forces for punishing them hard in recent months.”

Afghan national security advisor Hamdullah Mohib visits children injured in Monday’s attack in Kabul. (Photo: Afghanistan National Security Council/Twitter)

Former Afghan intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh in a tweet wondered what words the Taliban leadership, its negotiators in Qatar – where the Taliban has an office and where the talks with the U.S. are underway – and its foreign backers will utter as they try to use the attack “as a bargaining chip.”

There was no public reaction to the attack from U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who is leading the talks in Doha, although the U.S. Embassy in Kabul expressed its condolences and “strongly condemn[ed] the Taliban’s latest brutal attack against fellow” Afghans.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the “appalling attack” and called on the Taliban to “stop attacking civilians.”

“Today's indiscriminate assault, which caused injuries to children at school, was particularly barbarous,” he said. “It serves as a stark reminder of what is at stake in the peace process and why we remain committed to helping those Afghans who seek a peaceful future for their country.”

America’s longest military engagement abroad began in late 2001, when U.S. forces entered Afghanistan after the 9/11 terror attacks to topple the Islamic fundamentalist militia which harbored al-Qaeda.

In the talks, now in their seventh round, the main elements under negotiation are withdrawal of some 14,000 U.S. troops, a ceasefire, Taliban guarantees that it will not allow terrorist groups to operate in Afghanistan again, and national (intra-Afghan) peace talks.

The Taliban has refused to hold talks with the Ghani government, which it portrays as an illegitimate U.S. puppet.

A spokesman for the group’s Doha office, Suhail Shaheen, tweeted Monday that the Taliban will take part in intra-Afghan talks only once an agreement is finalized on a U.S. troop withdrawal.

But later in the day Khalilzad tweeted about apparent progress in that aspect of the talks, saying that Germany and Qatar have agreed to facilitate intra-Afghan talks on July 7-8.

“Mutual acceptance, seeking consensus, and agreeing to resolve political differences without force is what is needed to learn from the tragedy of the last 40 years,” he added. “I wish participants success.”

In a statement Germany’s envoy to Afghanistan, Markus Potzel, confirmed his country’s involvement in the talks, also to be held in Doha.

He stressed that Afghans “will participate only in their personal capacity and on an equal footing.”

That’s presumably an attempt to avoid a repeat of the last planned intra-Afghan dialogue, last April. That initiative collapsed over disputes about who should participate. The Taliban insisted that government officials should be there in their personal capacity, not representing what it called the “powerless and crumbling Kabul administration.”

Last week Pompeo paid an unannounced visit to Kabul, and expressed cautious optimism that a peace agreement could be reached with the Taliban by September, when presidential elections are due to be held.

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