May 30, 2019
ISLAMABAD — Afghan police say a suicide bomb blast near a military training academy in Kabul has killed at least six security personnel and injured 16 other people.
The Interior Ministry confirmed Thursday’s bombing at the entrance gate of Marshal Fahim National Defense University in the capital but gave no further details.
A string of recent attacks in Kabul have killed dozens of people, including prominent Islamic scholars.
Meanwhile, Afghan forces raided a Taliban-run detention facility in the volatile southern Zabul Province and freed 18 prisoners, including 12 security personnel.
The Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), the regional branch of IS, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The violence comes amid intense deadly clashes between U.S. backed forces and Taliban insurgents elsewhere in Afghanistan.
The Afghan intelligence agency also announced in a separate statement its special forces killed 60 Taliban fighters in overnight ground and airstrikes in the Maidan Wardak province.
The insurgent group in a statement rejected official claims as “enemy propaganda,” saying the clashes killed only three Taliban fighters and injured eight others. It went on to claim that 12 Afghan security forces were killed and the Taliban captured a security outpost in the process.
Both sides routinely make inflated battlefield claims, which are difficult to verify from independent sources.
Intra-Afghan talks in Moscow
The Taliban announced Thursday its two-day talks with prominent Afghan opposition politicians as well as civil society representatives have ended in Moscow.
A join statement issued by the insurgent group, however, did not offer any substantial outcome from the intra-Afghan dialogue such as a Taliban cease-fire during upcoming Muslim festival of Eid, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
No Afghan government representatives attended the meeting because the Taliban refuses to engage with them until all U.S. and NATO forces leave the country.
The insurgents have maintained the same stance in ongoing direct negotiations with Washington.
Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford on Wednesday again emphasized American forces will not leave Afghanistan “without our counter terrorism interest being addressed.” He was speaking at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
“Our fundamental interest, our counterterrorism present in South Asia in support of a broader South Asia strategy, that’s not negotiable in terms of our counterterrorism interest,” Dunford stressed.
The top U.S. commander spoke a day after the Taliban delegation, at a meeting in Moscow on Tuesday, again called for a full U.S. military withdrawal, denouncing the foreign presence in the country as an obstacle to Afghan peace.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov while addressing the gathering backed the insurgent demand. “We believe all foreign military [forces] should be withdrawn from the country and the society of Afghanistan should unite in finding a solution,” Lavrov said.
Russia hosted the meeting to mark the 100th anniversary of bilateral ties with Kabul. Taliban envoys as well as representatives of the Afghan government and opposition parties, and top presidential election candidates were among the participants of the special meeting.
After their last round of talks in Qatar earlier this month, U.S. chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban officials acknowledged they have reached a preliminary framework agreement that, if finalized, would bind insurgents to not allow international terrorists to use Afghan soil against any country in return for a foreign troop drawdown.
But the dialogue appears to have slowed down, if not stalemated, lately over Taliban’s refusal to cease hostilities and engage in talks with the Afghan government. The insurgents group insists Washington must announce the troop drawdown timetable before discussions on Afghan peace and political issues could take place.