Afghan bomb blast kills 12

Author: Associated Press

The bomb blast occurred in the city of Herat. Ten civilians and two police
officers were killed, said Noor Khan Nekzad, a spokesman for the Herat
provincial police chief. About 20 people were wounded, he said.

Yesterday’s attack on the soldiers raised Nato’s two-day August death toll to
nine, continuing the bloodiest period of the eight-year war for allied
troops.

The UN’s representative in Afghanistan called for peace talks with the
Taliban’s top leadership, saying deals with local militant commanders as
proposed by Britain’s foreign secretary would not be enough to end the
violence.

Kai Eide’s call is another indication that parts of the international
community favour reaching out to the top echelons of the radical Islamist
movement in their attempts to bring peace, as the conflict widens and
Western public opinion wavers in the face of rising death tolls.

Militants in eastern Afghanistan killed the three US troops with gunfire after
attacking their convoy with a roadside bomb, the US military said.

Six Nato troops also died on Saturday. July was the deadliest month for
international troops since the 2001 US-led invasion to oust the Taliban
government for sheltering al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, with 74 foreign
troops, killed.

Three American troops, two Canadians and one French soldier died on Saturday.

Roadside bombs have become the militants’ weapon of choice in Afghanistan, and
the number of such attacks has spiked this year.

US troops say militants are now using bombs with little or no metal in them,
making them even harder to detect. Militants are also planting multiple
bombs on top of one another and planting several bombs in one small area.

US commanders have long predicted a spike in violence in Afghanistan this
summer, the country’s traditional fighting season, and Taliban militants
have promised to disrupt the country’s August 20 presidential election.

Mr Eide, the UN’s chief in Afghanistan, said only talks with the top tier
Taliban have a chance of bringing an end to the conflict.

“If you want relevant results, you have to talk to those who are relevant. If
you want important results, you have to talk to those who are important. If
you only have a partial reconciliation process, you will have partial
results,” Mr Eide told reporters.

While the need for talks with the Taliban is recognised across the
international community, the conditions attached to such proposals – and the
timing of the talks – are a bone of contention.

President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly called for talks with Taliban leaders on
condition that the militants accept Afghanistan’s constitution and renounce
violence. Karzai has even personally guaranteed safe passage for Taliban
leader Mullah Omar if he attends such talks.

Omar, who is believed to be hiding in Pakistan, has publicly dismissed the
overtures, calling President Karzai an American puppet and saying no talks
can happen while foreign troops are in the country.

Adm Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has also said
he expects talks to help end the Afghan conflict. But he said the time was
not yet right for negotiations.

Behind the public posturing, several Gulf countries are working on sketching
out the contours of a political process that could eventually end the
expanding conflict.

Mr Eide’s remarks follow calls made last week by Foreign Secretary David
Miliband for talks with regular Taliban fighters.

He said Afghanistan’s government must develop “a political strategy for
dealing with the insurgency through reintegration and reconciliation” and
“effective grass-roots initiatives to offer an alternative to fight or
flight to the foot soldiers of the insurgency.”

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington agrees with the British
analysis of the way forward.

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