Taliban hit Kabul, 7 dead after Obama visit


Taliban bombers attacked a heavily fortified guesthouse used by Westerners in Kabul on Wednesday, announcing the start of their annual “spring offensive” in defiance of calls from visiting US President Barack Obama that the war was ending.
Seven people were killed after attackers in burqas detonated a suicide car bomb and clashed with guards at the “Green Village” complex of guesthouses used by the European Union, the United Nations and aid groups, officials said. The assault raises fresh concern about the resilience of the insurgency on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death as NATO winds down its combat presence in the next two years and hands over responsibility for security to Afghan forces.
The Taliban said the assault was a riposte to Obama, who just hours earlier signed a new partnership pact in Kabul to govern Afghan-US relations after 2014 — a deal the insurgents dismissed as “illegitimate”. Obama flew into Kabul in secret in the dead of night and signed the deal with President Hamid Karzai, cementing 10 years of US aid for Afghanistan after NATO combat troops leave in 2014. Most Afghans were asleep and he left after about six hours. The Taliban said Karzai had no right to sign the deal and accused him of selling Afghan sovereignty to the Americans. The militants vowed to continue their armed struggle “against all the contents of this illegitimate document until the full withdrawal of all invading forces and their puppets” — referring to the Karzai government. The Green Village assault began around two hours after Obama left. Police said suicide attackers wearing burqas struck at 6:15 am (0145 GMT), detonating a car bomb before clashing with guards. The interior ministry said seven people were killed, including at least six Afghans.
There were three attackers, the ministry said, one in the suicide car bomb and two who got inside the complex. One blew himself up while the other was shot dead by security forces. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told AFP the attack was a message to Obama to say the militants would continue to fight until all foreign forces had left. The militia said its spring offensive, code-named Al-Farouq, would from Thursday target “foreign invaders, their advisors, their contractors, all those who help them militarily and in intelligence”.
The White House said the pact allows possibility of American forces staying behind to train Afghan forces and pursue the remnants of Al-Qaeda for 10 years after 2014. The deal was concluded just over two weeks before a NATO summit in Chicago, but it does not cover the crucial issue of the status of any US troops remaining in Afghanistan. Instead it commits Washington to specific troop or funding levels for Afghanistan, though is meant to signal that despite ending the longest war in US history, Washington intends to ensure Afghanistan does not revert to a haven for terror groups.
Meanwhile, Pakistan strongly condemned the suicide attack in Kabul and said it would not allow anybody to use its territory against any country. “Pakistan and Afghanistan face the common threat of terrorism. We are committed to work closely with Afghanistan to eliminate this scourge,” said a Foreign Office statement said. It said that Pakistan had always maintained that promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan remains a cornerstone of its foreign policy.