Afghan Blasts Intensify Calls to Delay U.S. Troop Withdrawal

  • Day of carnage claims at least 60 lives, wounds more than 140
  • Blasts in Kabul shows capital is far from secure: analyst

As Afghanistan reeled from a series of bombings that killed at least 60 people in a single day, the resurgent terror campaign may increase pressure on U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s administration to revise troop withdrawal plans.

The gruesome attacks -- including a twin bomb blast in the capital, Kabul, which killed 40 people including civilians and military personnel -- highlights the growing insecurity across the country as U.S.-backed Afghan forces battle a renewed outbreak of Taliban violence as well as militants from al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

"The withdrawal of the American forces in 2017 is a serious threat to the stability of districts in Afghanistan," said Ahmad Saeedi, a political analyst in Kabul, by phone. "The Trump administration must keep a policy that guarantees the security and stability of the country where they began the most complicated war of the world."

Tuesday’s attacks "will pressure the U.S. to revise its troop withdrawal time line," Saeedi said.

Read: Afghan Mosque Attack Signals Dangerous ‘New Era of Terrorism’

UAE Envoy Wounded

Two large bombs in Kabul claimed by Taliban militants killed about 40 people and wounded 72 others in the worst attack in six months, an official of Ministry of Public Health, Mohibullah Zaeer, said by phone. The attack took place near parliament in the Darul Aman neighborhood during the afternoon rush hour.

Another bomb, placed on a sofa in the governor’s guesthouse, killed 11 people including five UAE nationals and the deputy governor of Kandahar. Dozen of others were wounded including UAE ambassador Juma Mohammed Abdullah Al Kaabi and Kandahar’s Governor Homayun Azizi, the United Nations said by e-mail. 

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi denied the group had launched the attack, which occurred during a high-level meeting between the governor and the UAE representatives. The representatives were in the country on a humanitarian mission, the UAE Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The decision to kill Afghan civilians highlights the Taliban’s weakness, said Mohammad Harun Chakhansuri, chief spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, in a press conference today in Kabul. Taliban insurgents had suffered many casualties on the battlefields and "that is why they start killing civilians, to gain attention," he said via an e-mailed statement from the Government Media Information Center.

An attack in Kabul is "a disaster for whole of Afghanistan," said Harun Mir, an independent Kabul-based political analyst. As well as undermining the Afghan nation, "it will impact the prestige of the United States as a super power and big supporter of Afghanistan."

‘Big Mess’

The Afghan government has not been able to secure the capital, leaving major cities "vulnerable to terrorist attacks," Mir said, describing the Afghan conflict as "a major problem" for the U.S. The incoming Trump administration will inherit "a big mess" in the war-torn country, he noted.

It is unclear what Trump has planned for Afghanistan, apart from a tweet in Jan. 2013 in which he said: "Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there."

"The United States stands with the people and Government of Afghanistan as we work together to build a more secure, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan," White House National Security Council spokesman Ted Price said in a statement overnight.

Taliban fighters, who have been waging a 16-year war against U.S. and Afghanistan forces, are fast gaining ground using escalating violence across the country. 

The deteriorating security situation led U.S. President Barack Obama in July to roll back his pledge to withdraw all combat forces, announcing that 8,400 troops will remain through 2017. U.S. officials estimate the Taliban control territory occupied by about 10 percent of the population, with another 20 percent of the country’s 30.5 million people in contested areas.

The Kabul attack is deadliest since July when a suicide bomb claimed by Islamic State struck a peaceful demonstration by the Hazaras ethnic minority in Kabul, killing 80 people and wounding more 250 others.

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