Taliban insurgents have staged a suicide car bombing and armed assault against a police base in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least three security officers and injuring several others.
Tuesday’s attack in the border province of Paktia came hours after U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien renewed Washington’s call for Afghan warring parties to urgently begin peace talks.
The early morning insurgent raid targeted a security compound in the provincial capital, Gardez, an area police spokesman told VOA.
Wahedullah Nizami said a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-filled vehicle at the entrance gate before two heavily armed men stormed the facility. Afghan forces swiftly engaged and killed the assailants after a brief gunfight, Nizami added.
The Taliban took responsibility for the plotting the attack, claiming it inflicted heavy casualties on Afghan security forces.
On Monday, NSA advisor O’Brien spoke to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani about a U.S.-led push for peace talks with the insurgents to end the war.
The NSA’s office tweeted that O’Brien discussed “the need for intra-Afghan talks to start without delay.” He reiterated U.S. support for “a sovereign, democratic, and unified #Afghanistan that never again serves as a source of international terrorism.”
An Afghan presidential spokesman tweeted Tuesday that both sides "emphasized the importance of a cease-fire for a durable peace.”
The proposed negotiations are stipulated in the February U.S.-Taliban agreement that called for the insurgents to free 1,000 Afghan security forces they held captive in exchange for the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners.
Ghani has freed all but 320 insurgent inmates, waiting until the Taliban free more captured Afghan soldiers and thus delaying the much-hoped-for peace negotiations. The insurgents have linked their participation in the talks to the release of all their prisoners.
The U.S.-Taliban deal aims to end the nearly two-decade Afghan war, America’s longest.
Washington has reduced U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 13,000 to 8,600 in keeping with the accord, which binds the Taliban to prevent the use of Afghan soil for international terrorism and seek a political settlement with rival factions to end the country’s long conflict.
The United Nations says Afghan civilian continue to bear the brunt of the conflict. The U.N. office in Kabul has documented nearly 3,500 civilian casualties, including about 1,300 deaths, in the first half of this year, though the figures represented a 13% decrease in comparison with the first half of 2019.
Russia has also criticized the Ghani government for having “put forth new conditions” for the release of Taliban prisoners. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova urged Kabul to urgently complete the exchange of prisoners to pave the way for intra-Afghan negotiations.
“We have pointed out that any delays in launching the intra-Afghan talks undermine the international efforts towards a settlement in Afghanistan and throw into question the Afghan authorities’ desire for an early restoration of peace in the country,” Zakharova warned.
Meanwhile, Afghan authorities confirmed Tuesday the deaths of 190 people in last week’s rains-triggered flooding in the country. An official announcement said nearly 4,000 houses have also been destroyed or damaged.