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All-Afghan Peace Summit Announced Following Deadly Kabul Attack

An Afghan police officer stands guard at the site of a suicide bombing in downtown Kabul on July 1.

KABUL -- An all-Afghan peace summit has been set for July 7-8, although the talks in Qatar will apparently be held without the official participation of the Afghan government.

The summit was announced on July 1 as negotiators from the United States and the Taliban were trying to hammer out terms for a peace agreement in the Qatari capital, Doha, and after the militant group claimed responsibility for a deadly bombing and gun attack in Kabul.

The July 1 assault on a government building killed at least six people and wounded 105. Five militants were also killed in an hours-long gunbattle with Afghan security forces.

Kabul Gunbattle Rages After Bomb Blast
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The assault was condemned as "barbarous" by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who called on the Taliban to stop attacking civilians but also said that Washington remained committed to the peace process.

Germany will co-sponsor the peace summit along with Qatar, according to Marcus Potzel, Germany's special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

But Potzel noted in a statement issued by the United States that the potential Afghan participants had been invited and "will participate only in their personal capacity and on an equal footing."

An earlier attempt at intra-Afghan dialogue in Qatar failed in April due to disagreements over who would participate.

The Taliban, which is demanding that foreign forces leave Afghanistan while the United States is seeking guarantees that the country will not be used as a staging ground for attacks elsewhere, has said it will not negotiate with the Afghan government until foreign forces have been withdrawn.

Afghan presidential spokesman Siddiq Siddiqi said that the Kabul attack showed that the Taliban militants "don't care about peace in Afghanistan. But for the people and the government of Afghanistan peace is the priority."

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who is currently in Doha attending a seventh round of direct talks with the Taliban, thanked Qatar and Germany for agreeing to host the summit.

"This dialogue is an essential element of the four-part peace framework & an important step in advancing the #AfghanPeaceProcess," he tweeted.

In a televised interview broadcast on July 1, U.S. President Donald Trump described Afghanistan as a "lab for terrorists," saying that if the United States withdrew its military forces from the country, he would still leave a "very strong intelligence" presence behind.

"I call it the Harvard of terrorists," Trump said about Afghanistan, referring to the prestigious U.S. university.

The interview with Fox News was recorded before the Taliban attack in Kabul.

With reporting by dpa and AP