US officials have announced a “brief pause” in talks with the Taliban after the armed group launched a suicide attack on a US base in Afghanistan, killing two civilians.
Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad on Friday expressed “outrage about attack in Bagram” and said the talks in the Qatari capital Doha would resume after the Taliban “consult their leadership on this essential topic”.
“Taliban must show they are willing & [and] able to respond to Afghan desire for peace,” Khalilzad said in a tweet.
Wednesday’s early morning assault, for which the Taliban have claimed responsibility, began when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive-packed vehicle outside a hospital building near Bagram military base in Parwan province, north of the capital Kabul, according to local officials.
Khalilzad had renewed talks with the Taliban earlier this month on steps that could lead to a ceasefire and settlement of the 18-year-long war in Afghanistan, allowing a gradual withdrawal of US troops from the country.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said Friday’s meeting was “very good and friendly”.
“Both sides decided to resume the talks after a few days of break for consultation,” he said.
The assault on Bagram airbase came despite the resumption of talks between the US and the group days before in Doha.
Peace negotiations began earlier this year but were suspended in September after an American soldier was killed in a suicide attack claimed by the Taliban.
US President Donald Trump, during a surprise Thanksgiving visit to Afghanistan last month, said Washington had resumed talks with the Taliban and that the Afghan armed group wanted a ceasefire.
Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians, security officials and more than 2,400 American service members have been killed since 2001 when a US-led military coalition dislodged Taliban from power.
About 13,000 US forces, along with thousands of other NATO troops, are stationed in Afghanistan, with US officials considering reducing the troop strength as part of any future peace deal.
But the Taliban has set the withdrawal of the US and NATO troops, whom it calls occupying forces, as a condition to strike a deal.
The Taliban calls the Western-backed Kabul government a “puppet” regime and has so far refused to speak to them.