KABUL (Dispatches) – A powerful bombing struck the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing at least one person and injuring scores in a major attack that could scupper plans to revive peace talks between the United States and the Taliban.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which struck the Bagram air base north of Kabul.
"First, a heavy-duty Mazda vehicle struck the wall of the American base,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman. "Later several mujahideen equipped with light and heavy weapons were able to attack the American occupiers.”
Abdul Shukoor Qudosi, the district governor of Bagram district, said 87 people were injured and one woman was killed.
Five troops from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, which is part of the U.S.-led coalition, were among those injured, the country’s defense ministry said in a statement.
"A 30-minute clash also happened between the attackers, who obviously wanted to enter the base, and foreign forces,” said Wahida Shahkar, a spokeswoman for the governor of Parwan province, which includes the Bagram district.
Two attackers detonated vehicles laden with explosives at the southern entrance to the base, while five more opened fire. It was not immediately clear how many of the five gunmen were killed, Shahkar said.
A medical base being built for locals was badly damaged, the coalition of foreign forces in Afghanistan said in a statement. The Taliban denied this.
Shortly after the bombing, Afghan troops, special forces and intelligence officers cordoned off the perimeter of the base with armored personnel carriers. Heavily armed soldiers kept residents far from the base gates.
Within minutes of the suicide bombing, U.S. fighter aircraft bombed the area, according to witnesses.
Outside the sprawling base, several homes, mostly belonging to the poor, were destroyed. A large mosque in the area was also badly damaged.
The attack comes shortly after President Donald Trump made a surprise visit to Bagram on November 28.
Trump called off talks with the Taliban in September after an attack by the group killed an American soldier. The U.S. looks to revive stalled peace talks with the militants who control more territory than at any point since 2001.
The militants hold sway over nearly half of Afghanistan, staging regular attacks that target foreign and Afghan forces, as well as Kabul government officials.
U.S. forces have remained bogged down there through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump.
On Monday, a confidential trove of U.S. government documents made public by The Washington Post revealed that American officials have "constantly lied to” the US public about what has been going on in the now 18-year war on Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai argued Tuesday that Washington helped fuel corruption
in his nation by spending hundreds of millions of dollars over the past two decades without accountability.
"What could we do? It was U.S. money coming here and used by them and used for means that did not help Afghanistan,” Karzai said.
According to the New York Times, "All told, the cost of nearly 18 years of war in Afghanistan will amount to more than $2 trillion.”