Roadside Bomb Kills 11 Afghan Forces as US Envoy Renews Peace Diplomacy

Officials in Afghanistan said Saturday a roadside bomb explosion in the northeastern border province of Badakhshan has killed at least eleven police personnel.
 
The bombing comes as America’s peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, has begun another visit to the region to push political reconciliation between Afghanistan’s warring sides.  
 
A provincial police spokesman told VOA the overnight attack targeted a security convoy that was rushing to Khash district to help other forces battling Taliban insurgents there.  
 
Sanaullah Ruhani said a local police commander was also among the slain personnel. He went on to claim that government forces inflicted heavy casualties on the Taliban during Friday night clashes in Khash, killing a key insurgent commander.
 
The Taliban did not immediately offer any comments on the bombing or clashes in an Afghan province where insurgents are in control of several districts. Badakhshan borders Tajikistan, Pakistan and China.  
 
On Friday, an insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan killed at least 15 members of the highway police force.  
 
The Taliban has halted attacks on U.S.-led international forces in the country in line with a landmark agreement it signed with Washington in February. But deadly insurgent raids against Afghan security forces have intensified in recent weeks.
 
The U.S. military this week also conducted airstrikes to disrupt Taliban attacks against Afghan security forces, saying they action was in line with the agreement.  
 FILE – Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, right, and Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, center, meet with U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 20, 2020.Khalilzad Trip
 
The U.S. State Department announced Friday that Khalilzad has departed Washington for travel to Qatar, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he will review the implementation of all commitments in the agreement, specifically reduced violence and prisoner releases.
 
“The primary focus of Ambassador Khalilzad’s trip is to obtain agreement between the Afghan parties on the practical next steps necessary for a smooth start to intra-Afghan negotiations,” it said.  
 
Khalilzad led the U.S. team that negotiated and sealed the February 29 pact with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, which hosts insurgent political office.  
 
The proposed intra-Afghan dialogue stipulated in the agreement, however, is tied to a prisoner swap between the government and the Taliban that would set free 5,000 insurgent inmates and 1,000 Afghan personnel.  
 
So far, the Taliban says it has released close to 460 detainees while the government says it has freed around 2,700 insurgents.  
 
“The road ahead will have challenges and difficulties. But we’re optimistic that finally we are moving forward to the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations,” Khalilzad told reporters in Washington earlier this week.   
 
“And not only we are trying to make sure that the remaining issues dealing with the prisoners release, which is up to 5000 prisoners to be released by the government and all the prisoners must be released before intra-Afghan negotiations can begin.”
 

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