Taliban Conduct Attacks in Afghanistan Amid Peace Negotiations

Officials said Friday Taliban militants conducted an overnight attack on the western Afghan city of Farah, the capital of Farah province.

There was no immediate word about casualties among Afghan forces or the Taliban.

On Thursday, the NATO-led military alliance said an American soldier and a Romanian soldier were killed “in action” in Kabul, Afghanistan, raising the number of U.S. military fatalities to 16 this year.

The Resolute Support mission did not immediately disclose additional details, citing policy restrictions.

The announcement came hours after the Taliban took responsibility for a suicide car bombing in the city that the insurgent group claims killed foreign and local military personnel.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi confirmed in a statement the blast killed a least 10 people and injured 42 others. He asserted all the victims were civilians.

The bombing occurred in an area of downtown Kabul that houses NATO’s headquarters, the U.S. embassy and the office of the Afghan spy agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS). The blast destroyed several vehicles and nearby shops.

Meanwhile, intensifying public outrage at an overnight security operation conducted by NDS forces in eastern Afghanistan that killed four civilians prompted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Thursday to dismiss the NDS chief.

Officials and witnesses said the slain men were brothers, one of them a government employee, who became the target of a Wednesday night security operation against a suspected Islamic State hideout in the city of Jalalabad.

The NDS in a statement took credit for the raid, saying these brothers were IS “facilitators.” In recent months, the spy agency has been increasingly blamed for conducting raids against civilian homes and killing people with impunity in the name of fighting terrorism.

“As a responsible state, we have zero tolerance for civilian casualties. I have regretfully accepted the resignation of NDS chief, Mr. Stanikzai who had had success in other areas of his work,” Ghani said in a statement. “The attorney general has been ordered to investigate the incident immediately to bring the perpetrators to justice,” the president said.

The Taliban said they also were behind Thursday’s car bomb attack near a security meeting of local and foreign personnel in the eastern Logar province. Afghan officials confirmed the killing of four civilians in that attack, saying it also injured 11 others.

The Taliban continues to launch deadly attacks even as its leaders are negotiating a deal with the U.S. on a foreign troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in return for security assurances.

There are roughly 14,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in the country, along with several thousand NATO allies there to train, advise and assist embattled Afghan security forces battling the Taliban.

The insurgent group also took credit for Monday’s suicide bombing on a compound in another part of Kabul housing international organizations and offices of diplomats. That attack killed at least 16 people and wounded more than 100 others.

Afghan media reported at least eight foreigners were among the dead, including a staff member at Romania’s embassy in the country.

Worries about US-Taliban deal

U.S. chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad told an Afghan television station on Monday his team of negotiators have drawn up a draft framework agreement that, if approved by President Donald Trump, would allow 5,000 American troops to leave five military bases in the country within 135 days.

Khalilzad, however, did not discuss whether the prospective deal with the Taliban has outlined the drawdown timeline for the roughly 8,600 residual U.S. forces.

After concluding the ninth round in his yearlong dialogue with the insurgent negotiators in Qatar last Sunday, Khalilzad traveled to Kabul where he shared details of the draft agreement with President Ghani to seek his observations before it is firmed up and signed.

A top Afghan presidential aide, Waheed Omar, told reporters Thursday the government has formally shared its reservations and concerns with U.S. officials about the draft agreement.

Omar would not outline exactly what the concerns were, but he said the government “wishes to reach a permanent and not temporary peace that would, God forbid, result in instability or another war” in Afghanistan.

Khalilzad has said the deal would require the Taliban to engage in intra-Afghan talks to discuss a permanent cease-fire and future power-sharing settlement.