Taliban ‘Launch Second Attack’ On Afghan City Despite Peace Talks

Taliban ‘Launch Second Attack’ On Afghan City Despite Peace Talks”

Taliban militants have reportedly launched a major attack on a second Afghan city, even as the USA special envoy has said negotiators are on the threshold of an agreement to end the country's almost 18-year conflict.

Presidential adviser Waheed Omer said envoy Zalmay Khalilzad again met President Ashraf Ghani on Monday, after an initial meeting the previous evening upon arriving from Qatar, where the ninth round of US-Taliban talks was concluded over the weekend.

The United States in the negotiations has also sought Taliban guarantees that Afghanistan will no longer be a launching pad for terror attacks such as the September 11, 2001, attack on the al-Qaeda.

Khalilzad was visiting Kabul on Sunday to brief the Afghan government on a deal that is not yet final.

Both sides in recent days have signaled they are close to a deal to end almost 18 years of war, which will pave the way for a full peace agreement with the Afghan government.

The Taliban now controls or holds sway over roughly half of Afghanistan and are at their strongest since their 2001 defeat by a US-led invasion in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Trump administration officials are split over whether to expand the CIA's role in Afghanistan after the U.S. reduces the number of troops in the country, according The New York Times.

Provincial council member Mabobullah Ghafari told The Associated Press that he had seen the bodies of at least six members of the security forces and that the situation was worsening by the hour.

However, the Taliban says it does not see much difference between USA troops and the CIA-backed forces and insisting that the Central Intelligence Agency leaves when worldwide troops pull out.

"We hear the sound of blasts".

An American service member was killed in combat operations in Afghanistan on Thursday, the USA military said, the third to be killed here in the past eight days.

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The Taliban advances prompted top Afghan security officials to arrive in Kunduz later in the day along with the USA commander of worldwide forces, General Scott Miller. "We need reinforcements to arrive as soon as possible".

Government officials in Kunduz and Kabul said the Taliban were seeking shelter inside homes and some of the fighters had entered the main hospital in the city.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in a Twitter post called the attack "large-scale".

On Saturday, the Taliban attempted to seize Kunduz in the north, and on Sunday, they launched an operation in the city of Pul-e Khumri, the capital of neighbouring Baghlan province.

Taliban fighters, who control large parts of the surrounding countryside, stormed the city in the early hours of Saturday, seizing large areas, including a hospital, before Afghan security forces backed by air strikes pushed them back.

Few details have emerged from this latest round of U.S. -Taliban peace talks, adding to the uncertainty as violence increases.

On Sunday, Khalilzad said the U.S. and the Taliban were at the "threshold" of a deal that would reduce violence and pave the way for "sustainable" peace.

"We will now discuss these developments with our own leadership, while Zalmay Khalilzad is supposed to go to Kabul and inform the Afghan leadership about the decisions made in the peace talks", said a senior Taliban leader privy to the talks.

A US official with the negotiation team added that "any potential peace deal will not be based on blind trust, but will instead contain clear commitments that are subject to our monitoring and verification".

"We can tell you that any potential peace deal will not be based on blind trust, but will instead contain clear commitments that are subject to our monitoring and verification", the official said.

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