Violence Marks Afghan President’s First Month

Violence Marks Afghan President’s First MonthViolence Marks Afghan President’s First Month

Suicide bombers, roadside bombs and rocket attacks on the Afghan capital have intensified in the one month since President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai took office as the Taliban are sending a message that they disapprove of his tough stance on ending the insurgency and close security ties with Washington, officials, analysts and the Taliban said.

In recent days, central Kabul’s diplomatic neighborhood has been shaken by late night rocket attacks. On both Friday and Sunday nights, rockets were fired into the heavily fortified “green zone,” sending locals running for cover and international residents into basement safe rooms to await the all clear.

According to an Associated Press tally, there have been at least 10 incidents in Kabul since Ghani Ahmadzai’s inauguration on Sept. 29, killing 27 people.

These include six suicide bombings, two roadside bombs and two rocket attacks. Just hours after Ghani Ahmadzai took the oath of office, seven civilians were killed by a suicide bomber near Kabul airport. On Oct. 1, seven Afghan soldiers and one civilian died in a suicide attack on an Afghan National Army bus.

In the same month last year, six people were killed in five incidents, which included an insider attack on an army base in which an Afghan soldier opened fire on foreign troops and was shot dead. Rocket attacks have been relatively rare in recent years.

  Change of Tactics

The Taliban said they were responsible for sending the rockets into the city and that they would continue doing so following an intense summer of fighting.

“The tactics of our attacks have changed because of the weather, the season. The recent rocket attacks were by us and our aim is to destroy this government,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

He said the attacks were in retaliation for Ghani Ahmadzai’s decision to sign a bilateral security agreement with Washington, permitting a residual force of 9,800 US troops to remain in the country after the end of the year. “These attacks will continue because this government has signed the (agreement). There will be more attacks, as we seek to strike at the head of the enemy,” Mujahid said.

The commander of Afghan National Army ground forces, Gen. Murad Ali Murad, said the recent addition of rocket attacks to the Taliban arsenal was an attempt “to show the international community that they are still a force to be reckoned with,” as they appeared aimed at the diplomatic district of Wazir Akhbar Khan.

Ghani Ahmadzai’s attitude toward the Taliban has been a departure from that of his predecessor, Hamid Karzai. While Karzai habitually referred to the insurgents as his “brothers” and castigated the United States for its military presence in Afghanistan, Ghani Ahmadzai has not mentioned the Taliban by name in public statements, referring instead to “political opponents.”

In response, analysts say the Taliban have adopted a strategy that emphasizes the vulnerability of Kabul and gives the impression that Ghani Ahmadzai’s government can’t protect the capital.

“Rocket attacks create a sense of crisis among the capital’s residents and force a deterioration of the security situation,” said Jawed Khoistani, a political analyst.