Saturday, May 26, 2018
News Roundup

Suicide bomber in Kabul kills at least 6

KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber detonated a Toyota sedan Saturday next to an Afghan army vehicle protecting the site of a forthcoming national assembly to consider a security pact with the United States. At least six people were killed and 22 wounded.

The explosion tore into the armored military vehicle on a street outside a university campus, where a five-day gathering of prominent Afghans, known as a loya jirga, is to open Thursday. The assailant was killed in addition to six Afghan civilians and security force members, said Sediq Sediqi, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry.

Several shops and vehicles were mangled by the explosion, the first bombing in the capital since Oct. 18. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

President Hamid Karzai has asked the loya jirga to provide an advisory vote on a bilateral security agreement with the United States that would define the partnership between the countries after international combat troops depart by the end of 2014.

The explosion was an ominous prelude to the loya jirga, to be held in a tent and meeting rooms at Kabul Polytechnic University on the west side of the city. Some of the roughly 2,700 Afghan delegates from across the country have begun arriving in the capital for registration Wednesday.

The blast came hours after Karzai announced that a draft of the agreement had been completed but "differences" remain on several issues that still must be cleared up by U.S. and Afghan negotiators. Karzai did not provide details of the draft.

The gathering will focus on key issues, including legal jurisdiction for remaining U.S. troops accused of crimes, said Najib Amin, the loya jirga deputy secretary. The issue of legal jurisdiction for remaining American forces scuttled similar security talks between Iraq and the United States in 2011.

The United States has insisted that its troops be subject to the American, not Afghan, legal system.

Also contentious is Karzai's demand for specific U.S. security guarantees against cross-border incursions by Pakistan. The United States has resisted.

Failure by the United States and Afghanistan to agree on a security deal would result in no U.S. military trainers remaining in Afghanistan after 2014. Significant cuts probably would be made to U.S. military and reconstruction aid.

The loya jirga is an advisory body, but such gatherings traditionally play a strong role in national decisions. Karzai has indicated that he will not sign the agreement unless the loya jirga approves it.

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