Huge Explosion Kills Or Injures At Least 67 People In Kabul
THE CITIZEN BUREAU
NEW DELHI: A huge explosion has caused several casualties and damage in the diplomatic area of Kabul, Afghanistan, officials say. Najib Danish, deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said at least 67 people were killed or wounded in a suicide car bombing in Kabul’s Wazir Akbar Khan area.
The explosion took place near a number of embassies in the capital city, not far from the presidential palace.
Details regarding the blast are yet to emerge, but authorities say over 60 people are admitted in hospitals. “We don't know the number of killed yet” added a health ministry spokesperson. The blast was reportedly so powerful that 30 vehicles were destroyed.
“By God's grace, Indian Embassy staff are safe in the massive #Kabul blast,” Ministry of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted. The Indian embassy is amongst the embassies in the area.
At the time of writing, no group has come forward to claim responsibility for the attack. The attack, however, comes as the Taliban steps up fighting as part of its ‘spring offensive.’
The attack also comes with the backdrop of increasing insecurity regarding Afghanistan, which is faced with a rising Taliban, on one hand, a new US administration that has thus far put forward no concrete policy regarding the war-torn country, on the other.
The Taliban has seen some of its biggest gains in the last few months, with recent reports by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) office noting a huge decline in the territory controlled by the American-supported Afghan government with corresponding increase in influence of the Taliban and other militant groups, including the Islamic State. In a worrying assessment, the report notes that the Afghan government had 57.2 percent of the country under its control by the end of 2016 — a 6.3 percent decrease from 2015.
Reports from the ground paint an even more worrying picture, with the Taliban effectively in control of several Afghan districts, most notably Kunduz and Helmand. This, when civilian casualties continue to climb for another consecutive year. As a spate of attacks have occurred across Afghanistan, 2016 will go down as yet another bloody year, with United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) figures documenting 11,418 civilian casualties (3,498 deaths and 7,920 injured) between 1 January and 31 December. These figures amount to a three per cent increase in total civilian casualties compared to 2015. Since 2009, the armed conflict in Afghanistan has claimed the lives of 24,841 civilians and injured 45,347 others. It is worth noting that as UNAMA figures paint a very worrying picture, the actual casualty figures are probably significantly higher.
Meanwhile, the US administration continues to waver when it comes to a future course of action in Afghanistan. President Trump has been decidedly vague on the US’ role in the region, and the little that he has said, has been largely contradictory.
The US, in fact, is considering sending more foreign troops to Afghanistan, after generals in the region officially said that a troop increase will be crucial to fighting back the Taliban. NATO already has more than 13,000 troops in Afghanistan -- far in excess of targets put forth by the Obama administration, as former US President Barack Obama had vowed to end the war in Afghanistan and bring troops home. However, during Obama’s presidency, the move to rollback troops was repeatedly extended and modified, with the original plan to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by 2014 never being met.
In February this year, NATO generals began making requests for more troops, stating that an increase was necessary to fight the Taliban. The possibility of this request being entertained remained a big question mark for several months, as the newly sworn in Trump administration remained mum on the future of Afghanistan. The administration is now formally considering the request. The discussion of a NATO troop increase, in fact, now comes as President Trump considers a plan send at least 3000 troops to Afghanistan. President Trump was expected to make a decision at a meeting in Brussels last week, but that was delayed after reports emerged that some within the Trump administration have expressed concern regarding a troop increase.
The only certainty is that current US policy in Afghanistan is not working, and while a request of troop increase is indicative of that failure, any move to do so will only further involve the Trump administration in the country.