Nearly two dozen rockets rained down on the Afghan capital Saturday, killing at the very least eight individuals and marking an inauspicious begin to a day that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had earmarked for discussing peace efforts in Afghanistan.

A spokesperson for the Afghan Interior Ministry said that the assaults launched from two automobiles hit at the very least six totally different neighborhoods of Kabul. In addition to the expired, at the very least 31 individuals had been injured within the assault.

The Islamic State claimed duty for the barrage, in accordance with the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks jihadi organizations on-line. It’s simply the newest act of violence claimed by the Sunni Islamist militant group, whose department in Afghanistan says it perpetrated a number of lethal assaults in current weeks — together with an assault on Kabul University and a suicide bombing within the capital.

Afghan officers, together with Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian, initially blamed the Taliban for the assaults, although the group explicitly denied involvement.

The assaults got here at a very delicate time for Pompeo, who was scheduled to meet Saturday in Qatar with officers from each the Afghan authorities and the Taliban. On the agenda had been the continued peace talks between the long-warring sides, which have largely stalled regardless of a separate agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban earlier this yr.

As not too long ago as a month in the past, the Taliban launched certainly one of its fiercest offensives in opposition to Afghan forces within the nation’s southern area, catching a lot of Afghan civilians within the crossfire and displacing tens of thousands of residents.

The bloodshed has not dissuaded President Trump from his purpose of withdrawing almost half of U.S. troops within the nation earlier than the tip of his time period in January. The administration introduced Tuesday that it plans to cut back troop totals within the nation to about 2,500 by mid-January — down from its present degree of 4,500 and a peak of roughly 100,000 a couple of decade in the past.

The transfer would signify a giant step towards fulfilling a Trump marketing campaign promise, but it surely has additionally raised issues amongst U.S. navy leaders and NATO allies.

“We have been in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years, and no NATO ally desires to remain any longer than needed,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned in an announcement released to news outlets Tuesday. “But on the identical time, the worth for leaving too quickly or in an uncoordinated approach might be very excessive.”

Pompeo has hailed the unfolding peace negotiations as “a second to dare to hope.”

“It took exhausting work and sacrifice to achieve this second,” he mentioned throughout talks in September, “and it’ll require exhausting work and sacrifice to maintain it alive, and to benefit from it in order that the talks end in a sturdy peace.”

It is unclear precisely what is going to occur to U.S. troop ranges underneath President-elect Joe Biden, who is about to take workplace simply days after the troop drawdown is about to start. Biden, for his half, has expressed skepticism of an in depth U.S. presence in Afghanistan, however has additionally looked favorably upon the concept of retaining a small contingent of troops within the nation.

For now, the workplace of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has pledged that his officers have been instructed to “discover and punish the perpetrators” of the latest assaults in Kabul.

Source: www.npr.org

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