The Latest: Officials: US envoy Khalilzad returns to Qatar

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September 05, 2019 - 2:51 pm

Afghan army soldiers arrive at the site of a car bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. A large car bomb rocked the Afghan capital on Thursday and smoke rose from a part of eastern Kabul near a neighborhood housing the U.S. Embassy, the NATO Resolute Support mission and other diplomatic missions. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Latest on the Taliban attack in Kabul (all times local):

10:50 p.m.

Officials close to the U.S.-Taliban negotiations on Afghanistan say U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has returned to Qatar, where he has been holding talks with the militant group on ending America's longest war.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

The abrupt return to Qatar, where the Taliban have a political office, comes less than a week after Khalilzad declared that the U.S. and Taliban had "in principle" reached a deal that only needed President Donald Trump's approval to become final.

Since then, the Taliban have claimed responsibility for two deadly suicide car bombings in the Afghan capital, Kabul. The second attack earlier Thursday killed a U.S. service member and a Romanian service member with the NATO Resolute Support mission, as well as at least 10 Afghan civilians.

— By Kathy Gannon

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4:40 p.m.

The NATO Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan says a U.S. service member and a Romanian soldier were killed in the Taliban suicide car bombing in Kabul.

The statement gave no details, simply saying they were killed in action in the Afghan capital on Thursday. The name of the U.S. service member was being withheld for 24 hours until the family was notified in accord with Pentagon policy.

The Romanian soldier was also not identified.

Afghan officials say the Thursday morning suicide car bombing at a checkpoint in an area close to the Resolute Support mission and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul also killed at least 10 civilians.

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2:50 p.m.

An Afghan official says the Taliban have detonated a car bomb in front of an Afghan military base that houses members of the country's special forces and that a small number of international forces also were in the area.

The Logar province council chief Haseebullah Stanekzai says the car bomb exploded in front of the gate of the base in Puli Alam, the capital of Logar province, south of Kabul.

Governor Anwar Khan Es-Haqzai says four civilians were killed and four others were wounded, adding that this information is preliminary.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

The blast comes a few hours after a Taliban suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vehicle at a checkpoint in Kabul, outside a compound where Afghan national security authorities have offices. The Interior Ministry says at least 10 civilians were killed in that attack.

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12:40 p.m.

An Afghan official says at least 10 civilians are dead and another 42 wounded in a Taliban car bombing in Kabul near the U.S. Embassy and the headquarters of the NATO Resolute Support mission.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi announced the new toll on Thursday afternoon. It was the second major Taliban bombing in Kabul this week.

The attacks are taking place even as a U.S. envoy is in town to brief Afghanistan's president and others on a deal "in principle" that he has reached with the Taliban on ending America's longest war.

The Afghan government has warned that the deal from which Afghan officials have been sidelined is moving dangerously quickly.

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11 a.m.

A car bomb rocked the Afghan capital on Thursday and smoke rose from a Kabul neighborhood housing the U.S. Embassy, the NATO Resolute Support mission and other diplomatic missions. At least three people were killed and another 30 wounded, a hospital director said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they targeted three vehicles of "foreigners" as they tried to enter the heavily guarded Shashdarak area where the Afghan national security authorities have offices.

It was the second major blast by the militant group in Kabul this week while a U.S. envoy has been in town briefing officials on a U.S.-Taliban deal "in principle" to end America's longest war.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the car bomb exploded on a main road, destroying at least 12 vehicles, and police quickly sealed off the area. The blast appeared to target a checkpoint in Shashdarak.

Three bodies and 30 wounded people were brought to nearby Wazir Mohammad Akbar Khan hospital, said its director, Gul Ahmad Ayubi.

An Associated Press reporter on the phone with the U.S. Embassy when the blast occurred heard sirens begin blaring there.

A Taliban suicide bombing in eastern Kabul on Monday night — which the insurgents said targeted a foreign compound — killed at least 16 people and wounded more than 100, almost all of them local civilians.

The attacks are again raising questions in Kabul and in Washington about the dangers of trusting the Taliban to make peace after nearly 18 years of fighting.

The Afghan government has expressed serious concerns about the U.S.-Taliban deal, which U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has said only needs the approval of President Donald Trump to become final.

Khalilzad says 5,000 U.S. troops would withdraw from five bases in Afghanistan within 135 days of a final deal. Between 14,000 and 13,000 troops are currently in the country.

Thursday's blast occurred as Afghan presidential adviser Waheed Omer was speaking to reporters, warning that difficult days were ahead and describing the U.S.-Taliban deal as moving with "excessive speed."

The Afghan government on Wednesday said it shares the concerns raised by several former U.S. ambassadors to Afghanistan. Their joint statement warned that a full U.S. troop withdrawal that moves too quickly and without requiring the Taliban to meet certain conditions, such as reducing violence, could lead to "total civil war."

The Taliban, at their strongest since their 2001 defeat by a U.S.-led invasion, want all of the approximately 20,000 U.S. and NATO troops out of Afghanistan immediately, while the U.S. seeks a withdrawal in phases that would depend on the Taliban meeting certain conditions such as a reduction in violence.

The U.S. also seeks Taliban guarantees that they will not allow Afghanistan to become a haven from which extremist groups such as al-Qaida and the local affiliate of the Islamic State group can launch global attacks.

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