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Taliban ‘open’ to fresh talks with US after deadly Afghan bombings

Smoke billows from a 500-pound bomb dropped during the intense battle for the city of Shewan. During the battle, Marine snipers attached to Task Force 2d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Afghanistan, killed more than 50 insurgents and wounded several more. (Sgt. Steven R. Cushman/U.S. Marine Corps)
September 18, 2019

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

The Taliban has said the “doors are open” to resuming talks with the United States despite continuing violence ahead of a presidential election in Afghanistan.

The Taliban’s chief negotiator, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, made the statement after two recent attacks claimed by the militants killed at least 48 people in Afghanistan.

Peace talks between the United States and the Taliban meant to reach a deal on the withdrawal of thousands of U.S. troops collapsed last week after President Donald Trump cited an attack that killed a U.S. soldier as his reason for calling off negotiations. The talks did not include the Afghan government.

Stanikzai told the BBC that the insurgents had done nothing wrong by continuing to fight throughout the talks. Stanikzai said the Americans had also admitted to killing thousands of Taliban during the discussions.

“From our side, our doors are open for negotiations,” he was quoted as saying.

On September 18, at least one suicide bomber and several gunmen attacked a government building in eastern Afghanistan, wounding 12 people, including a child and a woman.

Attackers detonated explosives outside the building in Jalalabad, the capital of the eastern province of Nangarhar, said Ataullah Khogyani, the provincial governor’s spokesman and a provincial-council member.

“Security forces are in the area to rescue the staff” at the electronic identification registration center, Khogyani said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but both Taliban and Islamic State group are active in eastern Afghanistan.

The attacks of the previous day, for which the Taliban claimed responsibility, left at least 26 people dead at a rally for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in the central province of Parwan, while 22 were killed in a blast in Kabul just over an hour later.

They were the bloodiest attacks to hit Afghanistan since the talks fell apart. Dozens more were wounded in the blasts, for which the Taliban claimed responsibility.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the attacks that occurred 11 days before the country is set to hold a presidential election the Taliban militant group has vowed to disrupt.

“Through these attacks, the Taliban demonstrate blatant disregard for the people and institutions of Afghanistan,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“For Afghans to truly reconcile, the Taliban must begin to demonstrate a genuine commitment to peace rather than continue the violence and destruction that causes such inordinate harm to the Afghan people and the future of their country.”

Pompeo warned the Taliban must show a “significant commitment” if talks are to resume.