US asks Taliban to enter talks with Karzai govt
WASHINGTON (PAN): The United States on Friday praised efforts of the Herat governor and Afghan security forces to secure the American consulate in the western province after a car-bomb attack on its compound.
Amidst heightened security, the consulate was closed and its officials were temporarily relocated to Kabul, the State Department Deputy Spokesperson, Marie Harf, told a news conference. Secretary of State John Kerry called the consul general after the assault.
“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the attack on its consulate in Herat that occurred at 5:30am on September 13th, Afghanistan time. We deeply regret the loss of life and injuries among Afghan civilians and Afghans on contract to the consulate,” she said.
“Our prayers go out to the victims and their families, and we hope for the speedy recovery of those injured. We are again reminded of the very real human toll exacted by this kind of terrorism,” Harf remarked.
She said the attackers began by detonating a vehicle-borne IED in front of the consulate, damaging the outer gate. Shortly thereafter, the attackers fired an RPG at the building and detonated another IED in front of the compound, she continued.
Consulate security neutralised several suicide bombers attempting to breach the compound. “Our security measures here were effective. The attackers were neutralised, our internal perimeter was not breached, and no American lives were lost... “
The spokeswoman said: “We thank the governor of Herat and the government of Afghanistan for their support and ongoing partnership. Diplomatic security staff and contract employees were equally a part of the response.”
“Secretary Kerry spoke today with Herat Consul General Jillian Burns to convey to all the CG staff that he was thinking of them, to see how everyone was doing, to ask whether there was anything they needed, and of course, to thank them for their courage in a difficult situation,” the US official said.
Harf said officials from the consulate had been temporarily relocated to Kabul at the moment. “I’m not aware of any specific threat reporting leading up to the attack in Herat. Obviously, our facilities in Afghanistan are always operating at the highest level of security. But we know that terrorists have the ability to conduct these kinds of asymmetrical attacks, so we remain vigilant and we’ll continue evaluating the threat picture there every day.”
The Taliban had the capability and desire to try asymmetrical attacks against US facilities and Afghan forces, she acknowledged. “We’ve seen that repeatedly. What we’re focused on right now is reiterating our call on the Taliban to come to the table to talk to the Afghan government about peace and reconciliation.”
She explained: “We know this is difficult. We are not naive; we’ve very clear-eyed about it. But you don’t have the luxury of negotiating with your friends. You have to negotiate peace with your enemies. And that’s what we’re focused on right now, even at the same time, as we’ve made clear, we will continue to fight international terrorism in Afghanistan or elsewhere. At the same time, we want people to come to the table to talk. We can definitely do both and are doing both at the same time.”
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