UNSC calls upon Taliban to go ahead with peace talks

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"The Kabul Process must lead to the renunciation of violence and breaking of all ties to worldwide terrorism, as well as the respect for the equal rights of all Afghans, including women, under the Afghan Constitution, the Council said in the statement".

Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahed, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement.

Mattis also said certain Pakistan military operations were helping the US' ongoing efforts against terrorism. While the latest blast was not on the scale of others that have killed scores of people recently, the constant stream of attacks in Kabul has undermined confidence in the Western-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani.

At the second Kabul Process Conference February 28, Ghani had called on the Taliban to participate in peace talks to "save the country" while offering security and incentives like passports to insurgents who take part in the negotiations.

A group of newly arriving U.S. Army advisers would partner with some of the Afghan troops securing Kabul.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon yesterday said the United States wants Pakistan to take more steps against terrorism in the region.

Once seen as relatively secure, the sprawling Afghan capital of Kabul is becoming the main focus of an intensified US-backed battle against the Taliban this year after a series of high-profile attacks exposed major gaps in security.

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Saturday's assault comes amid growing pressure on the Taliban to accept the Afghan government's offer of peace talks to end the 16-year conflict.

"My son telephoned me at night and said that he is in a secure area inside the city".

"The US is interested in addressing some of the Pakistani concerns, but the ball lies in Islamabad's court", the official said.

"So this really is probably their best time to attempt a negotiation, because it's only going to get worse for them", he added, as both sides prepare for the start of what is expected to be an intense spring fighting season.

Nicholson echoed that, noting there was more outreach than publicly known - including through "backchannel" intermediaries.

Unconfirmed reports say that reinforcements were not sent to the area to help soldiers under Taliban siege and it led to a massacre of the officers by the Taliban. "And more than I've seen in any of the previous times I've been around this". "But there are elements of the Taliban clearly interested in talking to the Afghan government", Mattis said.