September 2, 2019

As the special U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan appeared on television Monday to share details on the U.S.-Taliban draft peace accord, a car bomb went off in Kabul, killing at least five civilians and wounding 50. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, and said it targeted foreign forces.

The U.S. diplomat, Zalmay Khalilzad, was in Kabul to go over the deal with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. There are now 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and under the accord, nearly 5,400 would leave the country within the next five months. In exchange, the Taliban would make sure that militant groups do not use Afghanistan as a base for attacks against the United States and its allies.

The peace talks have been taking place in Qatar, and Khalilzad said President Trump still has to give the final approval. The Taliban has had a resurgence in Afghanistan in recent years, and the BBC found in 2018 that the militants are active in 70 percent of the country. Catherine Garcia

January 28, 2019

On Monday, the chief U.S. negotiator in peace talks with the Afghan Taliban told The New York Times that the two sides had agreed in principal to the framework of a peace deal that includes American troops leaving Afghanistan in return for a Taliban guarantee that its territory won't be used to harbor terrorist groups. "We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement," U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said. He returned to Kabul from peace talks in Qatar on Sunday to brief the Afghan government, which was not party to the talks. Taliban representatives also returned to discuss terms with their group's leadership.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani appeared a little apprehensive about the talks, especially since his government wasn't party to them. "We want peace quickly, we want it soon, but we want it with prudence," Ghani said in an address to the nation. "Prudence is important so we do not repeat past mistakes." Under the framework deal, U.S. troops would leave only after the Taliban agreed to prevent Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups from using Afghan territory as a base, enter peace talks with the Afghan government, and agree to a long-term ceasefire during those talks, Khalilzad said. The Taliban had resisted those last two points.

The agreement could fall apart, but it is the furthest that peace talks have progressed after nine years of stop-and-start negotiations and nearly 20 years of U.S.-led NATO military presence in Afghanistan. Peter Weber

November 3, 2018

One American soldier was killed and another injured when an Afghan commando shot them in Kabul on Saturday. The identities of the victims have not been released, and an investigation is ongoing.

"Initial reports indicate [Saturday's] attacker was a member of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces," said NATO representative Debra Richardson from Kabul. "The attacker was immediately killed by other Afghan forces."

This is the second such insider attack in two weeks; in a previous attack, an Afghan commando in Herat province killed one NATO coalition service member and wounded two more.

The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for 17 years, and the insurgent Taliban now controls more territory in the country than at any point since the 2001 invasion. Bonnie Kristian

September 15, 2018

The release of hundreds of Taliban-linked prisoners and the status of U.S. bases in Afghanistan are among the issues Taliban leaders want to negotiate in U.S.-backed talks to end the war in Afghanistan.

"This meeting with the U.S. authorities would either help pave the way for more meaningful talks or stop them forever," a Taliban commander told NBC News for a Saturday report. "If they are sincere in talks in the future, they would accept our proposal for a prisoners exchange." The Afghan government is unlikely to concede to this request without a commensurate concession from the Taliban.

The number of U.S. bases maintained long-term is also a point of contention; the U.S. wants two, but the Taliban wants zero. The Taliban's main "reason for war, their casus belli, if you will, is the occupation," Ret. Col. Christopher Kolenda, a former Pentagon adviser who has negotiated with the Taliban, explained in an interview with VOA. "So, they're not going to just simply say, 'We're okay with U.S. combat troops running around Afghanistan.' Because that's what they're fighting to prevent, from their point of view." Bonnie Kristian

January 30, 2018

A BBC study has found that Taliban fighters are now openly active in 70 percent of Afghanistan and have full control of 14 districts.

Last year, from Aug. 23 to Nov. 21, BBC reporters spoke to more than 1,200 people from all 399 districts in the country, and asked them about the security situation in their area. They found that since 2014, when foreign combat troops left the country after spending billions of dollars on the war, the Taliban has taken control of places like Sangin, Musa Qala, and Nad-e Ali in Helmand province, where from 2001 to 2014 hundreds of U.S. and British troops died while trying to get it back under government control. In the first nine months of 2017, more than 8,500 civilians were killed in attacks across Afghanistan, the U.N. says, and this month alone more than 100 people have died following attacks in Kabul and Jalalabad.

The BBC says that in addition to being in full control of 14 districts, the Taliban is open and active in 263 districts, meaning 15 million people, or half of Afghanistan's population, live in areas where the Taliban has a regular presence. There are 122 districts under government control, but violence still occurs in those areas. The Afghan government says it has control of most of the country, with President Ashraf Ghani's spokesman Shah Hussain Murtazavi telling the BBC the activities of the Taliban and Islamic State "have been considerably curtailed." It doesn't feel that way to people like Sardar, who told the BBC he's worried about what's going on in his town, Shindand. "When I leave home, I'm uncertain whether I'll come back alive," he said. "Explosions, terror, and the Taliban are part of our daily life." Catherine Garcia

July 25, 2017

In April, top U.S. military commanders strongly suggested that Russia has been arming the Afghan Taliban, whom the U.S. has been battling since 2001. On Tuesday, CNN presented footage it says backs up those claims. In the videos, two different Taliban factions show off weapons they claim were donated by Russia, in one case to a rival Taliban faction. The weapons — sniper rifles, heavy machine guns, and a variant of the Kalashnikov — have been scrubbed of any identifying marks. Russia has denied earlier reports that it is arming the Taliban.

In one video, a Taliban splinter group near Harat, in western Afghanistan, says the weapons it is displaying were seized from a mainstream Taliban group that attacked it. "These weapons were given to the fighters of Mullah Haibatullah by the Russians via Iran," said the faction's deputy leader, Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi. "The Russians are giving them these weapons to fight ISIS in Afghanistan, but they are using them against us too." The second Taliban group, near Kabul, said they were given the weapons at no cost across the border with Tajikistan, probably from "the Russians."

CNN asked weapons experts from the Small Arms Survey to examine the videos, and the experts said there was nothing concrete to tie the arms to Moscow, though the lack of any identifying marks in itself was a little suspect. "The Russians have said that they maintain contact with the Taliban, we have lots of other reports from other people they are arming the Taliban," Afghan government spokesman Sediq Sediqi tells CNN. "There is no smoke without fire." You can watch the videos and read more about the weapons at CNN. Peter Weber

June 17, 2017

Seven U.S. troops were wounded in an apparent infiltrator attack at a military base in Afghanistan on Saturday, U.S. officials said, but initial reports that American forces were killed are not correct. The shooter is believed to be an Afghan soldier who was fatally shot during his attack at Camp Shaheen in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif.

If reports that this is an insider attack are correct, it will be the second such incident in the span of a week. Last Saturday, three U.S. soldiers were killed and another wounded at a different base by an Afghan soldier whom the Taliban claimed was acting on its behalf.

This post has been updated throughout. Bonnie Kristian

April 25, 2017

The U.S. and its NATO allies have been fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan since soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, though the mission officially changed to training the Afghan army and police a few years ago. On Monday, Defense Secretary James Mattis made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan to assess the situation as President Trump decides whether to send more troops to help quash a resurgent Taliban. Mattis and the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, strongly suggested that Russia is behind a flood of arms to the Taliban.

The U.S. will have to "confront Russia" over "denying the sovereignty of other countries," including Afghanistan, Mattis said at a news conference in Kabul on Monday. "For example, any weapons being funneled here from a foreign country would be a violation of international law." When asked if he wanted to refute reports that Russia is arming the Taliban, Nicholson said, "Oh no, I'm not refuting that," adding that the U.S. has continued to receive such reports of Russian assistance to the Islamist insurgents.

After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the U.S. covertly supplied arms to the Afghan mujahideen resistance, which eventually caused enough loss of Russian blood and treasure that Soviet Russia pulled out in 1988. The loss in Afghanistan has been credited as a significant cause of the Soviet Union's fall in 1991. Peter Weber

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