Blasts Heard In Kabul After Kerry Called On Taliban To Restart Peace Talks
April 09, 2016
At least two explosions have been reported in Kabul's diplomatic area, shortly after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry left the Afghan capital following an unannounced visit during which he called on the Taliban to restart direct peace talks with the government.
"A rocket landed near a girls' school," Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said late on April 9. "There are no casualties."
Gunshots were also heard at the time of the explosions.
No groups have claimed responsibility for the assault, but Taliban insurgents had previously attacked official and foreign targets in the city.
"We call on the Taliban to enter into a peace process, a legitimate process that brings an end to violence," Kerry earlier said at a joint press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Ghani said they all hoped the Taliban would engage in peace talks and craft "a legitimate process that brings an end to violence."
The calls came as the Taliban has refused to hold negotiations until preconditions it has set, including the withdrawal of foreign troops, are met.
A four-nation group has been trying to set up direct peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban.
The so-called Quadrilateral Coordination Group -- which includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the United States – expected a meeting between the Taliban and the Afghan government in March.
Kerry's visit to Kabul, which was not announced publicly beforehand, came amid growing political infighting in the national unity government headed by President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.
Kerry told reporters on April 9 that the Washington-brokered agreement that created the national unity government has no set expiry date despite widespread expectations it would end in September.
"In no way does the agreement itself have some particular termination," Kerry said in the joint conference with Ghani.
The national unity government agreement was widely expected to end before parliamentary elections due to take place in October.
However, many observers believe that vote will have to be postponed until next spring because promised electoral reforms have not been implemented.
Under the agreement, Abdullah's role as chief executive was to segue into a prime ministerial role after the parliamentary elections. The accord was brokered by Kerry after disputed presidential election in 2014, in which both Ghani and Abdullah claimed victory amid mutual charges of widespread fraud.
Kerry also said on April 9 that President Barack Obama will be guided by the views of U.S. commanders on the ground in taking any new decisions regarding reductions in the number of American troops in the country.
The United States currently has about 9,800 soldiers in Afghanistan. They have been officially limited to a training and advisory role since the end of their combat mission in 2014.
The number of troops had been scheduled to be almost halved to 5,500 by the start of 2017.
With reporting by Reuters and AFP
Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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