Explosions shake Kabul shortly after US Secretary Kerry′s departure | News | DW | 09.04.2016
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Explosions shake Kabul shortly after US Secretary Kerry's departure

The explosions could signal an emphatic rebuke of Kerry's peace initiative. The resurgent Taliban have little incentive for talks - demanding the departure of 13,000 foreign troops as a precondition for negotiations.

At least two explosions, and perhaps several more, shook Kabul's diplomatic zone Saturday night, shortly after US Secretary of State John Kerry left the Afghan capital after an unannounced stop, which he used to call on the Taliban to reenter peace negotiations.

The nature of the blasts was not immediately clear, and authorities had limited information on casualties; however, the Taliban have recently been increasing their attacks against the government and military targets in the city. Gunshots were also reported.

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"A rocket landed near a girls' school. There are no casualties," said Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi.

Afghanistan's fractured government, led by President Ashraf Ghani, eagerly wants to jumpstart peace talks to end the fighting, which began in 2001 with a US-led military invasion of the country that toppled the Taliban from power.

However, the Islamic militant group has been riding a wave of military successes and has little incentive to negotiate right now.

Their preconditions for peace talks are the departure of 13,000 foreign troops from Afghan soil. There are approximately 9,800 US soldiers in the country. They are limited to training and advisory roles since their combat mission officially ended in 2014.

Kerry seeks peace

President Ghani shakes hands with US Secretary Kerry, with the country's respective flags in the background.

President Ghani shakes hands with US Secretary Kerry

"We discussed our shared goal of launching peace talks with the Taliban," Kerry said during a joint press conference with President Ghani in Kabul.

"We call on the Taliban to enter into a peace process, a legitimate process that brings an end to violence," he continued, saying: "Of course there is hope for peace."

Kerry also added that in July, "NATO allies and partners will gather in Warsaw in order to consider the next round of assistance for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces."

Another meeting is also scheduled for October in Brussels, where donor countries will review development aid to Afghanistan.

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This latest round of peace efforts began last July with the formation of four-party talks that included Afghanistan, the US, China and Pakistan. The talks soon ground to a halt, however, when it was discovered that the Taliban's founder Mullah Omar had died, setting off a round of internal fighting among the militants.

Besides a resurgent Taliban, Ghani's government is also riven by deep political and ethnic divisions. The country's flawed 2014 election left two men claiming victory: Ghani, a Pashtun, and Abdullah Abdullah, a Tajik.

Abdullah, who feels the election was stolen from him has the title of chief executive, but Ghani's title of president speaks for itself.

bik/bw (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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