The Taliban on Wednesday claimed responsibility for the killings of four U.S. forces in an overnight attack on Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, just hours after Washington said its officials would meet the insurgents for talks.
“Last night two big rockets were launched at Bagram (air base) which hit the target. Four soldiers are dead and six others are wounded. The rockets caused a major fire,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP news agency by telephone.
A U.S. official told Reuters news agency late Tuesday that insurgents attacked the base with some kind of indirect fire, leaving open the possibility it was hit by rockets or mortar rounds.
Earlier, President Barack Obama had welcomed the planned talks between the U.S. and the Taliban as an “important first step” but warned of a long and bumpy road ahead as Afghan and NATO troops continue to battle a 12-year insurgency.
The Taliban broke off contact with the Americans last year and have always refused to negotiate with Kabul, but on Wednesday they unveiled an office in Qatar “to open dialogue between the Taliban and the world”.
Their statement, however, made no direct reference to peace talks.
Wednesday also saw NATO’s formal transfer of responsibility for security to the Afghan police and army. About 100,000 international combat troops, 68,000 of them from the U.S., are due to withdraw by the end of next year.