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Three rockets landed in two different areas near the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan.
This happened while President Ashraf Ghani and other high-ranking officials were praying to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha on July 20th.
Images shown on national broadcaster Tolo TV showed Ghani and the group calmly continuing their prayers, as if to show that the government is on the back foot, but it hasn’t given up.
Eyes were immediately turned to the Taliban; however, the group denied the attack saying that they had decided to adhere to a weekend ceasefire over Eid. Allegedly, ISIS had claimed responsibility for the attack.
It is likely true, as ISIS carried out a similar attack in March 2020. Back then four rockets fell on the edge of the palace compound during Ghani’s inauguration as president.
Taliban don’t need to target the presidential palace during a religious holiday, as they have more than enough of the upper hand in the conflict, currently. Despite some recent gains by the Afghan army.
On July 20, the Afghan Army reportedly recaptured Garmsir district in Helmand province, as well as the Malistan district in Ghazni province.
Still, the Taliban has more than tripled the number of districts it controls, from 73 to 221, since US President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of US forces on April 14.
A truce over the entire Eid wasn’t achieved during negotiations in Doha, and Taliban continue with their gains. On July 19, Taliban captured Najrab district, while Afghan Army took control over Surkhe Parsa east of Kabul.
To aid in the fight, the U.S. handed over new attack helicopters to Afghanistan government forces, after at least three helicopters were destroyed by Taliban in the recent days.
According to the reports 7 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were delivered to Kabul. The Afghan Air Force is one of the few hopes left for Afghanistan, as the Afghan special forces who have received training from the US are stretched thin fighting on numerous fronts.
It is unlikely that the new helicopters will be enough to turn the tide, but some adequate resistance has evidently been mounted over the last several days, judging by some of the districts that are being recaptured.
Still, the strategic centers that are alongside highways, near border passings or other significant infrastructure and were captured by Taliban, remain under their control.
In a statement, the Taliban said “thousands of soldiers” had “defected and embraced the open arms of the Islamic Emirate,” which it claims is the true leadership of the Afghan people.