NATO chief says exit from Afghanistan going well as deadly attacks continue

NATO’ chief Jens Stoltenberg says the military organisation’s pullout from Afghanistan is going well, without making a reference to the series of attacks that not only claimed 10 lives, but plunged the country’s capital, Kabul, into darkness.

At least three bombs have rattled the Afghan capital Kabul killing at least 10 people and plunging the city into darkness, an Afghan government spokesman said.

Two bombs exploded in quick succession in separate locations of a west Kabul neighbourhood late on Tuesday, killing at least 10 people and wounding a dozen others, said deputy Interior Ministry spokesman Said Hamid Rushan.

A third bomb heavily damaged an electrical grid station in north Kabul, said Sangar Niazai, a spokesman for the government power supply department.

The initial two bombings, both targeting minivans, happened in a mostly ethnic Hazara area of the capital, said Rushan.

‘Withdrawal going well’

In a controversial statement, NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg later announced that the military organisation’s pullout from Afghanistan was going well, without making a reference to the series of attacks that not only claimed 10 lives, but plunged the country’s capital, Kabul, into darkness.

NATO has helped provide security in Afghanistan for almost two decades, but it now believes the government and armed forces it has trained are strong enough to stand on their own in the conflict-torn country without the help of international troops.

NATO took charge of security efforts in Afghanistan in 2003, two years after a US-led coalition ousted the Taliban for harbouring former Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Ladin. Fewer than 9,000 troops remain, including up to 3,500 US personnel, and they are scheduled to leave by September 11 at the latest.

Indiscriminate slaughter

The first exploded near the home of a prominent Hazara leader, Mohammad Mohaqiq, and in front of a Shia mosque. Most Hazaras are Shias. The second bomb also targeted a minivan but Rushan said details were still being collected.

Police cordoned off the two areas and investigators were sifting through the rubble.

No one claimed responsibility for the bombings but the Daesh terror group’s affiliate operating in Afghanistan has previously declared war on minority Shias, who make up roughly 20% of the majority Sunni Muslim nation of 36 million people.

The Daesh affiliate previously took responsibility for several attacks in May on Afghanistan’s power supply stations in Kabul and in several other provinces.

Failed legacy

On May 8, a car bomb and two roadside bombs exploded outside the Syed-al-Shahada girls school, also in a predominantly Hazara neighbourhood, killing nearly 90 people, many of them students. No one has yet claimed that attack but the US blamed Daesh.

The attacks come as the United States wraps up its longest war by withdrawing the last of its 2,500-3,500 troops along with 7,000 allied NATO forces. The last soldiers are to be gone by September 11 at the latest generating fears of increased chaos in a country already deeply insecure.

Violence has escalated in Afghanistan even as the United States struck a peace deal with the Taliban in February 2020 under the previous Trump administration.

The agreement called for the last of the US and NATO troops to be out of the country by May 1. Instead, the withdrawal began on May 1 after US President Joe Biden announced in mid-April America was ending its “forever war.” At the time, he declared terrorist groups like al Qaeda and Daesh had been sufficiently degraded and it was no longer necessary to keep thousands of troops deployed to Afghanistan.

Stalemated peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban are set to resume in the Middle Eastern country of Qatar, said a member of the Afghan government negotiation team, Nader Nadery.

The two sides have been meeting off and on since September 12 but progress has been slight.

“I do not see any sign yet of meaningful talks from the Taliban on key issues to end this senseless war,” said Nadery.