Taliban attack third Afghan provincial capital in a week

Taliban attack third Afghan provincial capital in a week”

Few details have emerged from the nine rounds of US-Taliban talks that ended last weekend. The vehicle bomb in Kabul on Thursday killed 12 people and wounded 42 others.

Sixteen U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan this year, three of them in just the past couple weeks. It's part of a string of attacks launched by the Taliban this week, even as the group is reportedly nearing a peace deal with the United States.

On September 5, reports said Khalilzad abruptly returned to the Qatari capital, Doha, for more talks with the militant group. The Taliban maintain a political office in Qatar. In May 2018, the Taliban made a major attempt to capture Farah city but were eventually driven back by Afghan and US forces. In addition, the Afghan government would acknowledge - but not endorse - the U.S. -Taliban deal, the sources said.

According to the local media reports, the Taliban briefly managed to enter Farah city and torched a number of government installations in the province.

Tolo News quoted sources familiar with Ghani's planned trip as also saying the visit had been postponed.

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Since Khalilzad's announcement, two horrific Taliban auto bombings in the Afghan capital, Kabul - one of which killed a USA service member - and objections to the deal from the Afghan government and several former US ambassadors to Afghanistan have put pressure on Khalilzad as many wonder whether a deal will truly bring peace. Khalilzad, who struck an optimistic note earlier this week, faces increasing criticism over the negotiations from both ends of the political spectrum, including from conservative commentators, former military commanders and diplomats and US lawmakers.

Engel, in a letter to Khalilzad, demanded the envoy testify before the committee "so that Congress and the American people will have the long-overdue opportunity to understand the contours of your negotiations with the Taliban and the potential risks and opportunities that may result".

According to the Interior Ministry, more than 70 militants, including Taliban's shadow governor for Badakhshan Qari Fasehuddin, were killed in the exchange of fire with the Afghan forces in the country's north on Friday.

Skeptics of the Taliban talks have charged the Trump administration with backing away from tougher positions over the past several months, including an earlier insistence on ensuring the Taliban agree to a countrywide ceasefire.

An Afghan cabinet minister who asked not to be named told RFE/RL on September 6 that the trip was delayed "by the USA government because of Mr. Ghani's opposition" to the text of a draft peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban. Between 14,000 and 13,000 troops are now in the country.

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