A suicide car bombing in Kabul has killed a US service member, a Romanian soldier and at least 10 Afghan civilians in a busy diplomatic area that includes the US embassy.
It was the second such attack this week, underscoring Afghan government warnings that a preliminary US-Taliban deal on ending America’s longest war was moving dangerously quickly.
“Peace with a group that is still killing innocent people is meaningless,” the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, said in a statement.
A Nato Resolute Support mission statement said the two service members were killed in action, without providing details or releasing their names, pending notification of their families.
The American soldier was the fourth US service member killed in the past two weeks in .
An Interior Ministry spokesman said another 42 people were wounded and 12 vehicles destroyed. Hours later, the Taliban set off a car bomb outside an Afghan military base in a neighbouring province, killing four civilians.
The Taliban said they targeted vehicles of “foreigners” as they tried to enter the heavily guarded Shashdarak area in Kabul where Afghan national security authorities have offices. The Nato Resolute Support mission is nearby, and British soldiers were at the scene, retrieving what appeared to be the remains of a Nato vehicle.
Footage widely shared on social media showed the suicide bomber’s vehicle turning into the checkpoint and exploding and a passerby trying to sprint away just seconds before.
Once again, civilians made up most of the victims. “I don’t know who brought us to the hospital and how,” said one of the wounded, Nezamuddin Khan, who was knocked unconscious.
The explosion at the checkpoint, which has been targeted in the past, follows a that killed at least 16 people and wounded more than 100, almost all of them local civilians.
Hours later, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a car bombing outside an Afghan military base in the Logar provincial capital, Puli Alam, which houses members of the Afghan special forces.
US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been in Kabul this week briefing Ghani and other Afghan leaders on to end nearly 18 years of fighting that he says only needs President Donald Trump’s approval to become a reality. Khalilzad has not commented publicly on this week’s attacks.
The Afghan government has raised serious concerns about the deal, including in comments on Thursday as the latest attack occurred. The agreement was moving with “excessive speed,” presidential adviser Waheed Omer told reporters, warning of difficult days ahead.
The Taliban, at their strongest since their 2001 defeat by a US-led invasion, have refused to negotiate with the government, calling it a US puppet.
The Afghan government on Wednesday said it shares the concerns raised by several former US ambassadors to Afghanistan, who warned that a full US troop withdrawal that moves too quickly and without requiring the Taliban to meet certain conditions, such as reducing violence, could lead to “total civil war” such as the one that engulfed the country in the 1990s, before the Taliban swept into power.
Khalilzad has said 5,000 US troops would withdraw from five bases in Afghanistan within 135 days of a final deal. Between 14,000 and 13,000 troops are currently in the country.
However, the Taliban want all of the approximately 20,000 US and Nato troops out of Afghanistan immediately, while the US seeks a withdrawal in phases that would depend on the Taliban meeting certain conditions, such as a reduction in violence.
The US also seeks Taliban guarantees that they will not allow Afghanistan to become a haven from which extremist groups such as al-Qaida and the local affiliate of the Islamic State group can launch global attacks.
The deal is meant to be followed quickly by intra-Afghan talks that the US would like to see begin ahead of Afghanistan’s presidential election on 28 September.