Kabul: President Hamid Karzai said on Saturday
that Afghanistan and the United States are engaged in peace
talks with the Taliban, even as insurgents stormed a police
station near the presidential palace, killing nine people.
The brazen attack in the heart of Kabul`s government
district provided a sharp counterpoint to Karzai`s first
official confirmation that the US and Afghan governments are
holding discussions with the Taliban.
The Obama administration neither directly confirmed
nor denied Karzai`s statement.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the US has
"consistently supported an Afghan-led" peace process.
"Over the past two years, we have laid out our red
lines for the Taliban: They must renounce violence; they must
abandon their alliance with al Qaeda; and they must abide by
the constitution of Afghanistan," Toner said. "This is the
price for reaching a political resolution and bringing an end
to the military actions that are targeting their leadership
and decimating their ranks."
Today`s violence underscored the challenges facing any
possible negotiated settlement to the decade-long war.
Three men dressed in Afghan army uniforms stormed the
police station near the presidential palace and opened fire on
officers, said Mohammed Honayon, a witness. The Interior
Ministry said in a statement that one of the attackers
detonated a suicide bomb vest outside the gates while the
others rushed in and began shooting.
The crackle of gunfire echoed through the streets
typically bustling with shoppers and government employees on a
Saturday, the start of Afghanistan`s work week. The fighting
ended by 3 pm when security forces shot dead the two other
attackers. Three police officers, one intelligence agent and
five civilians were killed in the attack, the Interior
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed
responsibility for the attack in a text message to The
Associated Press, saying the group dispatched three suicide
The assault occurred shortly after Karzai announced
during a speech at the presidential palace that his government
and the US have begun preliminary negotiations with the
Taliban aimed at ending the conflict.
"In the course of this year, there have been peace
talks with the Taliban and our own countrymen," Karzai said.
"Peace talks have started with them already and it is going
well. Foreign militaries, especially the United States of
America, are going ahead with these negotiations."
Karzai said some of the Taliban emissaries that have
met with members of the peace council he set up were only
representing themselves, while others were speaking for the
broader movement. The exact nature of the contacts was not
immediately clear, and Karzai said that no government official
outside of the council had contact with them.
"The peace council is trying to get connected to them
to bring peace," the president said.
Attacks in the Afghan capital have been relatively rare,
although violence has increased since the May 2 killing of
Osama bin Laden in a US raid in Pakistan and the start of the
Taliban`s annual spring offensive.
The capital is one of seven regions scheduled to be
handed over to Afghan security control in late July part of
NATO`s efforts to begin transferring security responsibilities
ahead of its planned 2014 withdrawal from the country. The US
also plans to start drawing down troops in July.