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The Taliban have claimed responsibility for a car bomb blast and a ground assault near the Afghan Ministry of Defense logistics center. According to the country’s Ministry of Interior Affairs, the attack killed 16 and injured at least 105. Among the casualties were 51 children and 5 women, stated government authorities. The attack occurred during morning rush hour in Kabul. When the streets were filled with people, a bomb-laden car exploded outside the defense ministry building. According to Al Jazeera, at least 3 people ran into the nearby engineering and logistics department, where a 7-hour gun battle ensued. According to a UN report released in February, more Afghan civilians were killed in the conflict in 2018 than at any time since the United Nations began keeping records in 2009. 3,804 people died in 2018, including 927 children, and this incident only signifies the perpetuation of conflict in the region.
Afghanistan’s national security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, stated that “it was an indiscriminate attack that took the lives of many innocent civilians, many of whom were kids. We condemn it in the strongest terms… We are grieved by the casualties, but we stand strong in defiance of our people, our country and our fundamental rights of freedom.” The Taliban claimed responsibility immediately after the attack, with spokesman Zabuhullah Mujahid saying in a statement that the group attacked “the logistics and engineering centers” of the ministry of defense. The statement further said the explosion caused “heavy casualties to a number of civilian people,” but added that the target of the attack was military, not civilian. A civilian witness described the incident: “Just a 100 meters away, I saw from my window that fighters were conducting more blasts and shooting. I went out to check on my grandmother and mother, who were both stuck under the rubble after the roof fell on them as well.”
The Taliban attack came just a few days after peace talks with the US got underway in Qatar, a significant step in the peace process in Afghanistan. The conflict has spanned approximately 18 years, three US administrations, and has cost billions of US dollars and countless lives. The talks centered around four prominent issues: counter-terrorism, the foreign troop presence, an intra-Afghan dialogue, and a permanent ceasefire. The deal would see the US potentially agree to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, although this proposition worries Afghan citizens, as it would create a power vacuum that unwanted fighters would occupy. Consequently, the Taliban would give a guarantee that the country would never again become a safe haven for violent groups. These talks have undoubtedly been constructive, though the recent attack in Kabul has only stymied the process. The Taliban insist that they will not talk to the Afghan government in any capacity, a view which is problematic considering that an essential component of any peace process is direct engagement between parties.
Nevertheless, in the wake of the deplorable attack on the Ministry of Defense logistics center, a fresh attempt will be made to make political headway, as the United States seeks a peace deal with the Taliban within three months. While the eagerness to achieve a solution in Afghanistan can be commended, some may doubt whether an organization so averse to peaceful processes can be persuaded to come to the negotiating table.