Afghan blast damages hospital near US Bagram airbase

Afghan blast damages hospital near US Bagram airbase
A bomb exploded near an under-construction medical facility near Bagram Air Base, the main US base north of the Afghan capital, leaving one dead and scores wounded.
3 min read
11 December, 2019
US soldier stands guard during President Trump's surprise visit at Bagram Air Field [AFP/Getty]
One person was killed and dozens wounded when a bomb exploded close to the largest US military base in Afghanistan on Wednesday, damaging homes and a hospital that was under construction near the entrance to Bagram Airfield, officials said.

The attack - which has not yet been claimed - comes as Washington resumed talks with the Taliban on Saturday, three months after President Donald Trump abruptly halted diplomatic efforts that could end America's longest war.

Both the Taliban and the Islamic State group stage near-daily attacks in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan.

"The explosion happened in front of the gate of the Korean hospital which is almost adjacent to Bagram airfield," Parwan governor spokeswoman Wahida Shahkar said, referring to the US airbase in eastern Parwan province.

The hospital was not in operation at the time, but Bagram district governor Abdul Shukoor Qudoosi said at least one woman had been killed and 60 civilians wounded when the blast damaged nearby homes.

Qudoosi described the blast as a "powerful" suicide car bomb, though that had not been confirmed by other officials, and said it was followed by fighting with armed assailants.

Mahfooz Walizada, the Parwan police chief, also said one woman had been killed and put the wounded toll higher, at around 100 people.

NATO's Resolute Support mission said there were no US or coalition casualties and "Bagram remained secure throughout the attack".

"The attack was quickly contained and repelled... but the future medical facility was badly damaged," it added in a statement.

President Donald Trump made a surprise visit to Bagram, north of Kabul, on November 28 to celebrate Thanksgiving with his troops and meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

In September, the US and the Taliban had appeared on the verge of signing a deal that would have seen Washington begin withdrawing thousands of troops in return for security guarantees.

It was also expected to pave the way towards direct talks between the Taliban and the government in Kabul and, ultimately, a possible peace agreement after more than 18 years of war.

But that same month, Trump abruptly called the year-long effort "dead" and withdrew an invitation to the insurgents to join secret talks at his US retreat at Camp David after the killing of an American soldier.

Even during the stall in talks, Zalmay Khalilzad, a veteran US negotiator who was born in Afghanistan, has in recent weeks continued his whistle-stop tour of various nations with a stake in Afghan peace, including Pakistan.

He recently arranged a captive swap in which the Taliban released an American and an Australian academic whom they had held hostage for three years.

The Taliban have until now refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, which they consider an illegitimate regime.

Read more: CIA-backed 'death squads' accused of Afghanistan 'war crimes'

About 13,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan, 18 years after the United States invaded in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The US president has often vowed to pull out of the US' "endless wars", and he is keen to withdraw many troops from Afghanistan ahead of the November 2020 election when he faces a tough battle to win a second term.

Afghanistan remains roiled by violence, and US presidents are still only able to make fleeting, unannounced visits to Bagram - the biggest American base in the country - due to the security threat.

This story was updated to reflect that one person had been killed in the explosion. The updated version also includes comments from the Parwan police chief. 

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