Taliban assault provincial capital in west Afghanistan

Resolute Support forces arrive at the site of car bomb explosion in Kabul Afghanistan Thursday Sept. 5 2019

Resolute Support forces arrive at the site of car bomb explosion in Kabul Afghanistan Thursday Sept. 5 2019

The government in Kabul has been completely side-lined from the talks between the USA and the Taliban in Doha - to the extent that President Ashraf Ghani was shown a copy of the deal, but not allowed to keep it.

Relentless, deadly attacks by the Taliban, including a auto bombing Thursday that killed a USA service member, are testing President Donald Trump's resolve to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and end what he has called America's "endless" war. It's part of a string of attacks launched by the Taliban this week, even as the group is reportedly nearing a peace deal with the United States.

A top Congressional committee on Thursday called on US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to testify before it on the US-Taliban deal which is "agreed in principle". Khalilzad has said the first 5,000 USA troops would withdraw from five bases in Afghanistan within 135 days of a final deal.

He writes that "given the challenges this Committee has faced in getting information from the Trump Administration on this issue, I want to be clear: I do not consider your testimony at this hearing optional".

Afghanistan's president has postponed a planned visit to Washington early next week where he was to discuss the U.S. -Taliban talks on ending America's longest war, a person familiar with the negotiations said Friday.

In May previous year, the Taliban made a major attempt to capture Farah city but were eventually driven back by Afghan and U.S. forces.

A senior US official said it's not clear how long the envoy will be in Doha or where he will go afterward.

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You can not think too far ahead because I think that's just going to kind of make it more hard or maybe add some pressure or something.

"The concerns are very high, not just for the government but also for the people of Afghanistan, because the people of Afghanistan have been bitten by this snake before", Waheed Omer, a senior adviser to the Afghan president, told a press briefing in Kabul on Thursday.

"Peace with a group that is still killing innocent people is meaningless", said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Few details have emerged from the nine rounds of U.S. -Taliban talks over almost a year.

Despite the violence, the administration is likely to continue pushing for an end to US involvement and a withdrawal of American troops, said Jarrett Blanc, the deputy USA special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2012 to 2014.

Trump has said he wants to withdraw more than 5,000 American troops from Afghanistan and then contemplate further drawdowns. Between 14,000 and 13,000 troops are now in the country. In addition, the Afghan government would acknowledge - but not endorse - the U.S. -Taliban deal, the sources said.

However, the Taliban want all of the approximately 20,000 US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible.

If the Taliban deal enters into force, the Taliban and the Afghan government would start peace talks in Oslo later this month. The U.S. military has had boots on the ground since 2001, when American forces toppled the Taliban regime for harboring the al Qaeda extremists behind the September 11 attacks.

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