A rocket attack was carried out on Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, on the morning of August 21st.
According to Tolo News, the attack started at 9 AM while the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was delivering his Eid speech. Early reports indicated that the attacks were fired at the Presidential Palace and around the Green Zone.
Tolo News cited officials who said that at least 12 missiles exploded, adding that locals claimed there had been more than 20. The first rocket hit somewhere near the presidency, the second near a NATO compound and the US Embassy in Kabul, AP reported citing a police official. RT reported that Black smoke was seen rising from the buildings as military helicopters were flying above the city, where clashes are reportedly ongoing.
AFP also cited an interior ministry spokesman who said that two people were wounded in the attack.
“There are groups that continuing the violence and with firing of rockets they cannot stop the people of Afghanistan’s development,” Ghani said in response to rocket attacks.
RT further reported that the area where the rockets hit is one of the most secure parts of Kabul, where embassies and Afghan government buildings are located. The quarter is heavily fortified, surrounded by high cement blast walls.
No side has claimed responsibility for the attack, however it comes two days after on August 19th, President Ghani announced a conditional ceasefire with the Taliban for the Eid celebrations.
RT reported that despite the ceasefire, on August 20th Taliban members ambushed three buses, kidnapping the passengers in a violation of the truce that was presumably in effect. The outlet further reported that on the same day Afghan Security Forces have freed nearly 150 people who have been kidnapped by the Taliban.
On August 19th, Ashraf Ghani announced a conditional ceasefire, which would last from August 20th “until the prophet’s birthday provided that the Taliban reciprocate”, referring to the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday which is celebrated on November 21 in Afghanistan. The Taliban did not immediately respond; however they released a statement that they planned to release “hundreds of prisoners” on the occasion of Eid.
Al Jazeera reported that Ghani’s ceasefire announcement was limited to the Taliban and excluded other armed groups such as ISIS.
On the same day, while addressing a select group of people on Sunday evening at Darulaman Palace in Kabul – to mark Independence Day – CEO Abdullah Abdullah essentially said there would be no unilateral ceasefire this Eid, as reported by Tolo News.
Also, on the same day, the High Peace Council (HPC) said they had gathered the opinions of members of the public over the past month on a ceasefire and had forwarded their findings to President Ashraf Ghani. HPC spokesman Sayed Ehsan Taheri said their findings show that people want a permanent ceasefire between government and Taliban. “We have finalized the ceasefire plan which was asking the people’s opinions. The people want a long-term ceasefire not an interim one. They want the ceasefire to help both sides, government and Taliban, to trust on each other and start direct talks,” said Taheri.
Members of parliament said that the ceasefire should be bilateral, and not unilateral.
However, no response to the ceasefire was released by the Taliban. On August 20th, President Ashraf Ghani announced that operations would continue if the Taliban group does not respect the ceasefire.
The ceasefire was welcomed by countries such as Pakistan and China. An Interfax news agency report, cited by Tolo News stated that on August 20th Zamir Kabulov, special representative of the Russian president on Afghanistan said a meeting has been organized for September 4 and that a Taliban delegation is expected to attend.
The ceasefire was to follow the example of the previously announced truce with the Taliban during the Eid al-Fitr holiday in June. The truce which was the first formal and nationwide ceasefire since the beginning of the conflict in 2001 was indirectly accepted by the Taliban for three days, before the movement rejected a call by the president to extend it.
Before the announcement of the conditional ceasefire by Ghani on August 19th, on the previous day Ahmad Zia Massoud, a former special envoy to President Ashraf Ghani and a member of a new coalition called the Grand National Coalition of Afghanistan said that Taliban militants are preparing an attack on Kabul. He spoke at a press conference on August 18th. He also claimed that the government was aware but according to him it did not take action to counteract the possibility.
Massoud was fired from his post as the president’s special envoy for forms and good governance in April 2017.
“The possibility that Taliban will attack Kabul or other provinces is not far from the imagination. They are living in coordination; both Taliban and government; on how to work for peace process with the price that they (Taliban) will be able to attack provinces. Therefore, I invite all Kabul people to have all their preparations (in place),” Massoud said. He also claimed that the Afghan administration is helping the Taliban financially and even militarily.
Government did not comment on the claims. The Presidential Palace recently said the current problems are the legacy of those who are criticizing government for different “reasons”.
The attack on Kabul comes a little over a week after the Taliban group stormed Ghazni city on August 10th. The city is located 180 km from Kabul and Afghan Security Forces needed five days and air support from NATO and the US to push the Taliban out of the city.