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Taliban attack shakes Kabul, killing 16 as peace deal reached ‘in principle’

U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad speaks at the inauguration of the Ghazi School in Kabul. (US Embassy Kabul Afghanistan/U.S. Department of State)
September 04, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The Taliban took credit for killing at least 16 civilians involving a car bombing and gunmen in Kabul on September 2 as the Afghan-based militant group agreed “in principle” to a deal to end the nearly 18-year conflict, the longest war in which the United States has been embroiled.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi said the explosion occurred in a large compound of the Afghan capital where foreign organizations and aid agencies are based, and which is outside the heavily fortified Green Zone.

At least 119 were wounded “in last night’s attack….The explosion was caused by a tractor filled with explosives,” Rahimi said on September 3.

The attack came as U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad was in Kabul to discuss with Afghan officials the draft peace deal.

In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL, Khalilzad said the Taliban has agreed “in principle” that any Afghan territory it controls in the future will not be used as a sanctuary for terrorists to launch attacks against the United States and its allies.

He also said that U.S. and Taliban negotiators had also agreed on the gradual “reduction and withdrawal” of Western forces from Afghanistan.

“That would depend on the situation on the ground,” the envoy said.

However, he pointed out that the agreement, reached after nine rounds of U.S.-Taliban negotiations in Qatar, wasn’t final until U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to it.

Khalilzad said he “will have more talks” with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and other high-ranking government officials to discuss the draft agreement.

Presidential spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi told reporters in Kabul the government will need to “study and assess” details of the draft deal.

Khalilzad arrived in the Afghan capital on September 1 from Qatar, after declaring that U.S. and Taliban negotiators were “at the threshold” of a deal following the ninth round of talks.

The envoy said Washington hopes that a final U.S.-Taliban agreement would pave the way for “inter-Afghan dialogue, which is an historic and golden chance to end the 40-year-old war in Afghanistan.”