A rocket landed in the heavily fortified diplomatic area of the Afghan capital Kabul, police said, hours before US President Donald Trump was due to announce his long-awaited strategy for the war-weary country. It was the latest in a series of attacks in the city and comes less than three months after a massive truck bomb ripped through the same area, killing about 150 and wounding around 400 people, mostly civilians.
A siren used by the US embassy to warn of incoming rockets into the area, where most embassies and the headquarters of NATO’s operations in Afghanistan are located, could be heard by AFP reporters. “A rocket has landed on the football field in Wazir Akbar Khan,” a police officer told AFP. He said there were no immediate reports of casualties.
The rocket comes after the Taliban last week warned Trump not to send more troops to the war-weary country. The Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001, also slammed the Afghan government in an open letter and warned the United States that it could never defeat the insurgent group. Taliban insurgents are currently at the peak of their summer fighting season and have launched several deadly assaults around the country in recent weeks.
Since NATO forces ended their more than a decade-long combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, Afghan troops and police have struggled to beat back the resurgent Taliban, while facing the growing menace of the Islamic State group. General John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, has requested thousands of extra boots on the ground to help combat the militants.
US troops in Afghanistan now number about 8,400, well below their presence of more than 100,000 six years ago. They mainly serve as trainers and advisers to Afghan forces. There are another 5,000 from NATO allies. Trump had several options on the table, including remaining on the current course, which relies on a much reduced US-led NATO force to help Afghan partners push back the Taliban, or try a new approach, such as sending more troops.
The rocket is the latest attack in the capital city. On June 3, seven people were killed after suicide bombers attacked the funeral of a protester who was killed the day before during a demonstration against insecurity in Kabul. On May 3, a powerful blast targeting a foreign forces convoy near the US embassy and NATO headquarters killed at least eight people and wounded 28 during morning rush hour.