KABUL – At least three rockets landed near the presidential palace on Tuesday, shortly before Afghan President Ashraf Ghani delivered a speech to mark the main Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
There were no injuries and the rockets fell outside the heavily fortified palace grounds, said Mirwais Stanikzai, a spokesman for the interior minister.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, which destroyed at least one car parked on a nearby street. The palace is located in the middle of the so-called Green Zone which is fortified with giant concrete walls and barbed wire, and the streets near the palace have been closed for a long time.
The bombing came as the United States and NATO complete their final withdrawal from Afghanistan. Many Afghans worry that their war-torn country will slide deeper into chaos and violence as foreign forces withdraw and the Taliban gain more territory on the ground, having captured several key districts and border crossings with neighboring countries. for the past few weeks.
The pullout is more than 95% complete and the last American soldier will be gone by Aug. 31, President Joe Biden said in a speech earlier this month.
“This Eid is named after the Afghan forces to honor their sacrifices and courage, especially in the past three months,” Ghani said in his address to the nation after morning prayers for Eid al-Adha, or the “Feast of Sacrifice. “.
“The Taliban have no intention or will for peace,” Ghani said. “We have shown that we have the intention, the will and we have sacrificed for peace.”
Ghani also lamented his government’s decision to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners to start peace talks last year as a “big mistake” that only strengthened the insurgents.
“We released 5,000 prisoners to start peace talks, but to date the Taliban have not shown any serious or significant interest in the peace talks.”
Abdullah Abdullah, the No. 2 government official, was inside the palace during Tuesday’s rocket attack, having returned from peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar on Monday. The ones inside the palace, however, were a long way from where the rockets landed.
The two days of meetings in Doha, the highest level of negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban so far, were aimed at reviving the stalled talks, but ended with the promise of more high-level talks.
In his speech, Ghani also attacked neighboring Pakistan, which Kabul blames for harboring Taliban leaders and providing safe haven and assistance to insurgents. In the most recent fighting in the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak, Taliban fighters were seen receiving treatment at 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 influence, which it calls it is now waning, to pressure the Taliban to speak out for peace.
Pakistan has also been deeply critical of Kabul, saying it has allowed 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 homeland,” but its media has been “campaigning for a Taliban regime in Afghanistan,” Ghani added.
Eid al-Adha is the most important Islamic holiday, marking the will of the prophet Ibrahim, Abraham for Christians and Jews, to sacrifice his son. During the festival, which in most places lasts four days, Muslims sacrifice sheep or cows and distribute part of the meat to the poor.
Associated Press writer Kathy Gannon in Islamabad contributed to this report.