KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – At least three rockets struck near the presidential palace on Tuesday, shortly before Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was supposed to give a speech on the occasion of the great Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
There were no injuries and the rockets landed outside the heavily fortified palace grounds, said Mirwais Stanikzai, spokesman for the interior minister.
No one immediately confessed to the missile attack, but the police quickly spread. A car parked on a nearby street was completely destroyed; According to the police, it served as a launch pad for the missiles.
The palace is located in the middle of a so-called green zone, which is fortified with huge concrete walls and barbed wire, and roads near the palace have long been closed.
The barrage came as the US and NATO made their final withdrawal from Afghanistan. Many Afghans are concerned whether their war-ravaged country will fall even deeper into chaos and violence if foreign troops withdraw and the Taliban gain more territory there after conquering several districts and important border crossings with neighboring countries in recent weeks.
The withdrawal is more than 95% complete and the last U.S. soldier will be gone by August 31, President Joe Biden said in a speech earlier this month.
“This oath was named after Afghan armed forces to honor their sacrifices and their courage, especially in the past three months,” Ghani said in his address to the nation after the morning prayer for Eid al-Adha or the “Festival of Sacrifice”.
“The Taliban have no intention and no will for peace,” said Ghani. “We have proven that we have the will and the will to make sacrifices for peace.”
Ghani also regretted his government’s decision to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners last year to start peace talks as a “major mistake” that only strengthened the insurgents.
“We released 5,000 prisoners to start peace talks, but to date the Taliban have shown no serious or significant interest in peace negotiations.”
Abdullah Abdullah, the second government official, was in the palace during Tuesday’s missile attack after returning from Qatar peace talks with the Taliban on Monday. However, those who were in the palace were far from where the missiles landed.
The two-day meetings in Doha – the highest level of negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban to date – aimed to speed up stalled talks, but ended with promises of further high-level talks.
In his speech, Ghani also attacked neighboring Pakistan, which holds Kabul responsible for hosting the Taliban leadership and providing a safe haven and assistance to the insurgents. In the recent fighting in the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak, Taliban fighters were treated in a Pakistani hospital across the border in Chaman.
Pakistan is seen as the key to peace in Afghanistan. The Taliban leadership is based in Pakistan, and Islamabad has used its now waning influence to urge the Taliban to talk about peace.
Pakistan has also deeply criticized Kabul, saying it had enabled another militant group, the Pakistani Taliban – Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan – to find safety in Afghanistan, from where they have launched a growing number of attacks against the Pakistani military .
“Pakistan does not want a Taliban regime in its home country,” but its media has “campaigned for a Taliban regime in Afghanistan,” added Ghani.
The Eid al-Adha is the most important Islamic holiday and marks the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim – Abraham for Christians and Jews – to sacrifice his son. During the holiday, which usually lasts four days, Muslims slaughter sheep or cattle and distribute some of the meat to the poor.
Associate press journalist Kathy Gannon in Islamabad contributed to this report.
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed in any way without permission.