Kabul    -   An American service member was among at least a dozen people killed in a Taliban suicide car bomb near the US Embassy in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Thursday.

The US soldier, along with a Romanian soldier and at least 10 Afghan civilians were killed in the attack. Another 42 people were wounded in the explosion that rocked the busy diplomatic district.

It was the second such attack this week, seemingly underscoring the government warnings that a preliminary US-Taliban deal on ending America’s longest war is moving dangerously quickly.

Both the US and the Taliban have stepped up attacks on one another amid the US-led peace talks that attempt to end nearly two decades of war, officials say. Thursday’s bombing took place following a ninth round of peace talks Sunday.

“Peace with a group that is still killing innocent people is meaningless,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement.

A NATO Resolute Support mission statement said the two service members were “killed in action,” without providing details or releasing their names pending notification of their families.

The American soldier was the fourth US service member killed in the past two weeks in Afghanistan.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said 12 vehicles were destroyed in the explosion. Hours later, the Taliban set off a car bomb outside an Afghan military base in a neighbouring province, killing four civilians.

The Taliban said that in the Kabul attack, they targeted vehicles of “foreigners” as they tried to enter the heavily guarded Shashdarak area where Afghan national security authorities have offices. The NATO Resolute Support mission is nearby, and British soldiers were at the scene, retrieving what appeared to be the remains of a NATO vehicle. Neither the NATO mission nor the British high commission commented on the attack.

Footage widely shared on social media showed the suicide bomber’s vehicle turning into the checkpoint and exploding — and a passer-by trying to sprint away just seconds before. “We all saw on security camera who were targeted!” presidential spokesman Sediq Seddiqi tweeted.

The explosion at the checkpoint, which has been targeted in the past, follows a Taliban attack against a foreign compound late Monday that killed at least 16 people and wounded more than 100, almost all of them local civilians.

While the US and Taliban are close to a peace deal to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has declined to sign the Afghan peace deal, Time Magazine reported.

Pompeo said the US has “delivered” on its original mission in Afghanistan — to prevent Al-Qaeda from using the country as a safe harbour to plan and execute terrorist attacks.

“If you go back and look at the days following 9/11, the objectives set out were pretty clear: to go defeat Al-Qaeda, the group that had launched the attack on the United States of America from Afghanistan. And today, Sl-Qaeda … doesn’t even amount to a shadow of its former self in Afghanistan,” Pompeo said. “We have delivered,” the US secretary of state added.

Despite the shifting goal posts for what victory in Afghanistan looks like, Pompeo said US forces have been “successful” in achieving their original mission.

“There is a real achievement that has taken place, and we have in fact for now almost two decades greatly reduced the risk that an attack on the United States of America would emanate from Afghan soil,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo said that a drawdown in Afghanistan could free up US counterterrorism resources to wage a fight that is now more globally dispersed than in the period immediately following the September 2001 terror attacks.

“The question today is how do we make sure that we match today’s requirements with American resources to most effectively keep America safe,” Pompeo said.

“We want to get it right. We want to reduce risk,” Pompeo said, adding: “I’m very confident that our policy in the Middle East and in South Central Asia will reflect both the desire to make sure we don’t put Americans at risk unnecessarily and, second, to make sure we’re doing everything we can to reduce the risk that terror will emanate not only from Afghanistan, but from Iraq, or from Syria, or from anyplace else in the world.”

Pompeo acknowledged that the security situation in Afghanistan remains fragile, making clear that a US troop withdrawal is not tantamount to a declaration of victory.