Toll from last week's Afghan bombing passes 150

Posted June 09, 2017

As officials from around the world gathered in Kabul for a peace conference, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that far more people were killed in last week's massive truck-bomb explosion than initially reported - more than 150, making it the deadliest attack in the capital in years.

Since the global military mission declared an end to its combat mission in 2014, the Taliban have made steady gains.

This is the first of its kind worldwide meeting being held at the initiative of the Afghan President aimed at bringing the prolonged conflict in Afghanistan to an end.

Then-U.S. President George W. Bush first sent special forces to the country 16 years ago after the September 11 attacks to topple the Taliban regime which sheltered al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

Built on a US -brokered agreement between the former rivals Ghani and Abdullah after the disputed election of 2014, the partners in Afghanistan's National Unity Government have been at odds since the start. Afghan security forces accused the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network of being behind the attack, complicating today's talks.

The bomb attack in Kabul was the deadliest in the capital since the Taliban were driven from power by US-led forces in 2001.

Security has continued to deteriorate in Afghanistan with the resurgent Taliban claiming more territory and Islamic State militants also stepping up attacks.

Earlier this year, a top U.S. commander warned of a "stalemate" in the fight against the Taliban unless more foreign troops were committed. "The forum also concluded that instead of blaming Pakistan, Afghanistan needs to look inward and identify the real issues", said a statement issued after the meeting. "This is the last chance, take it or face the consequences", he said. Afghans also accuse Iran and Russian Federation of helping the Taliban.

"The launch of the Kabul Process tomorrow is an important marker for each and every country in the region to show its true support for Afghanistan's aspirations for peace", said Dominic Jermey, the British ambassador to Kabul.

Ghani said Afghanistan had provided its preconditions for negotiations to the Taliban, but it remains unclear whether the group's leaders represented all factions. Nafees Zakaria, a spokesman for Pakistan's foreign ministry, couldn't immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday. Many parts of the country remain plagued by militancy despite the presence of foreign troops.

Before the bombings and the street demonstrations, the Trump administration was discussing whether to send another 3,000-5,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan, but now that will hardly be sufficient.

U.S. Charge d'Affaires Hugo Llorens, who is overseeing the American embassy as no new ambassador has been nominated by Trump, said the conference was a chance to send the message that "the enemies of Afghanistan can not win".

Delivering his opening speech at the Kabul Process Conference on 6 June, Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani made a scathing attack on Islamabad, saying his country is suffering from an "undeclared war of aggression from Pakistan".