Rockets target Kabul presidential palace

IS claims responsibility for the attack; President Ghani says Taliban have ‘no intention for peace’

At least three rockets hit near the presidential palace on Tuesday shortly before Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was to give an address to mark the major Muslim holiday of Id al-Adha.

There were no injuries and the rockets landed outside the heavily fortified palace grounds, said Mirwais Stanikzai, spokesman for the interior minister.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack on its Amaq news channel.

Police quickly fanned out across the area. One car parked on a nearby street was completely destroyed; the police said it was used as launching pad for the rockets.

The palace is in the middle of a so-called Green Zone that is fortified with giant cement blast walls and barbed wire, and streets near the palace have long been closed off.

The barrage came as the U.S. and NATO complete their final withdrawal from Afghanistan. Many Afghans are worried whether their war-ravaged country will fall deeper into chaos and violence as foreign forces withdraw and the Taliban gain more territory on the ground, having captured several districts and key border crossings with neighboring countries over the past weeks.

The withdrawal is more than 95% complete and the final U.S. soldier will be gone by August 31, President Joe Biden said in an address earlier this month.

“This Id has been named after Afghan forces to honour their sacrifices and courage, especially in the last three months,” Mr. Ghani said in his address to the nation following morning prayers.

“The Taliban have no intention and willingness for peace” Mr. Ghani said. “We have proven that we have the intention, the willingness and have sacrificed for peace.”

However, Afghan forces have complained about being left without reinforcements and supplies, often running low on food as the Taliban advanced. In many instances, Afghan troops surrendered rather than fight. Washington’s watchdog monitoring U.S. spending in Afghanistan reported that troops are deeply demoralised and corruption is rampant. After their pullout, the U.S. and NATO are committed to spending $4 billion annually on Afghan forces until 2024, the majority of that money coming from Washington.

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