Nato sends warning as Taliban truck bombs rock Afganistan

Taliban insurgents detonated two powerful truck bombs outside the Afghanistan’s spy agency office and a police compound in the central town of Ghazni on Thursday, killing 18 people and wounding around 150, the provincial governor said.

The attack, the biggest in recent weeks, comes days after the National Directorate of Security, the intelligence arm leading the fight against the insurgents, was targeted in the east.

Ghazni provincial governor Musa Khan Akbarzada said a team of 19 insurgents was involved in the attack, which also targeted a quick reaction team housed in the police compound. The explosions – which shattered windows in the town – were followed by gun battles with Afghan forces, he said.

Series of Taliban offensices
The attack in Ghazni, one of the provinces that surround the capital city of Kabul, is the latest in a series of offensives launched by the Taliban in the summer fighting season.

Insurgents have carried out complex attacks on government installations, including in Logar and Wardak provinces, which are the gateways to the heavily-guarded national capital.

Afghan officials have in the past blamed such truck bombings near the capital on the Haqqani network, one of the deadliest Taliban factions.

Akbarzada said the attackers drew up outside the two government offices early on Thursday. “The bombs were so powerful that many civilians were wounded because of falling roofs and shattering of windows in their homes,” he said.

The attacks coincide with a political deadlock where rival presidential candidates have failed to resolve months-long disputes over an election meant to mark the first democratic transfer of power in Afghan history. 

The June elections failed to produce a new president as both candidates claim their opponent rigged the vote, despite repeated United States efforts to get them to accept the results of an audited recount.

Time ‘pressing’ on Afghan troop accords
Meanwhile, Nato alliance head Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned that time was pressing for Afghanistan to sign accords allowing Nato to carry out its post-2014 military training mission. “Time is of the essence,” Rasmussen said as he arrived for a two-day Nato summit in Wales.

“We need to know very soon whether [the accords] will be signed,” he said, adding, “we are approaching the date when that decision has to be taken”.

The accords cover the legal status of US and Nato troops who will remain in Afghanistan after the alliance ends its longest ever combat operation there at the end of this year.

In 2011, Washington pulled all its troops out of Iraq in the absence of such an agreement with Baghdad, and there are fears there could be a repeat in Afghanistan, putting at risk the hard-won gains of a bloody and costly 12-year war.

Outgoing President Hamid Karzai decided not to come to the Nato summit, which was supposed to sign off on the training mission, with Kabul likely to be represented only by its defence minister.

Nato members have repeatedly stressed that a new president should attend the summit to prove that the country is becoming a functioning state after receiving billions of dollars in military and civilian aid. – Reuters, AFP

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