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Taliban Try to Kill U.S. Commander Days After Lauding Talks with U.S. Envoy

U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, United States Central Command commander, and Gen. Scott Miller, Resolute Support Mission commander, stand as the NATO Hymn is played during the Resolute Support mission change of command in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sept. 2, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Sharida Jackson)

The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan escaped unhurt today after a gunman opened fire on officials leaving a high-profile meeting that included Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller.

The Taliban claimed on their website that “amid the series of ongoing Al Khandaq crushing operations, mujahideen carried out” the attack. Al Khandaq is the name of the Taliban’s spring offensive launched in April.

“At Kandahar palace today: Afghan-on-Afghan incident, as initial reports indicate. 3 Americans wounded. Gen. Miller uninjured, attacker reportedly dead,” tweeted the official account of Resolute Support, the NATO mission in the country.

According to Afghanistan’s TOLO News, “The incident happened when officials were leaving the governor’s office and while on their way to a helipad.”

“Sources also say the attack was initiated by at least one of the governor’s bodyguards,” TOLO added.

Kandahar’s anti-Taliban police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq, 39, was killed; TOLO described him as “a fierce patriot … committed to stamping out terrorism.” His father and uncle were killed by the Taliban in 1994; he became the provincial police chief in 2011, after his predecessor was murdered in a suicide bombing.

Raziq had, by his estimation last year, survived about 29 assassination attempts.

The Taliban said in their report that “main targets of the attack were American commander Miller and infamous commander general Abdul Raziq the police chief of the said province.”

Miller assumed command of Resolute Support on Sept. 2.

“We are being told the area is secure. Initial reports also say the attacker is dead,” Col. Knut Peters, a Resolute Support spokesman, said in a statement.

The attack comes just days after the Taliban and the Afghan government said U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with Taliban officials in Qatar to discuss a peace deal with the terror group.

Khalilzad, a former UN ambassador in the Bush administration, was in Kabul on Monday in an effort to push a deal with the Taliban. “His mission there is to coordinate our U.S. efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table,” State Department press secretary Heather Nauert told reporters last week. “This is still Afghan-led, Afghan-owned. Our policy has not changed in any way, but we’re proud and pleased to have him out there advocating on this behalf and we’ll be working in close coordination with the Afghan government.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the Doha discussion was “about ending occupation and working towards finding a peaceful resolution to the Afghan conflict.”

“The representatives of the Islamic Emirate identified presence of foreign forces as the greatest obstacle obstructing true peace and solving problems, adding that Afghanistan is an Islamic country and has its own Islamic values and culture. Keeping that in mind, efforts must be made towards a true and intra-Afghan solution,” Mujahid said Saturday. “At the end both sides agreed to continue holding meetings in the future.”

Last year, Trump had requested that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani shut down the Taliban’s Qatar “political office,” as the group calls it.

Taliban attacks in Afghanistan have continued unabated, with the terror group trying to disrupt parliamentary elections and dozens of Afghan police killed in a pair of Taliban attacks Sunday and today. Despite attacks that have included spraying guests of Kabul’s Intercontinental hotel with bullets in a coordinated January assault, the Trump administration, like its predecessors, has not formally designated the Taliban a terrorist group so that it can conduct negotiations with them.