Rockets land near Afghan presidential palace during Eid prayers

Kabul: At least three rockets hit near the presidential palace on Tuesday (July 21) shortly before Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was to give an address to mark the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha (Bakrid). 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 claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, which destroyed at least one car parked on a nearby street.

Abdullah Abdullah, the No. 2 official in the government, was inside the palace during the rocket attack, having returned on a day earlier from peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar.
Those inside the palace, however, were far removed from where the rockets landed.

The palace is in the middle of a so-called Green Zone that is fortified with giant cement blast walls and barbed wire, and streets near the palace have long been closed off. The barrage came as the US and NATO complete their final withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Many Afghans are worried whether their war-ravaged country will fall deeper into chaos and violence as foreign forces withdraw and the Taliban gain more territory on the ground, having captured several districts and key border crossings with neighbouring countries over the past weeks.

The withdrawal is more than 95% complete and the final US soldier will be gone by August 31, President Joe Biden said in an address earlier this month.

“This Eid has been named after Afghan forces to honour their sacrifices and courage, especially in the last three months,” Ghani said in his address to the nation following morning prayers for Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice.”The Taliban have no intention and willingness for peace,” Ghani said. “We have proven that we have the intention, willingness and have sacrificed for peace.”

In his speech, Ghani also assailed neighbouring Pakistan, which Kabul blames for harbouring the Taliban leadership and providing a safe haven and assistance to the 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 key to peace in Afghanistan. The Taliban leadership is headquartered in Pakistan and Islamabad has used its leverage, which it claims is now waning, to press the Taliban to talk 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 targeting the Pakistan military.