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Afghan Presidential Palace Targeted by the Taliban

An attack on the presidential palace in downtown Kabul on the morning of June 25 has terrified Afghans and cast a huge cloud over the future of negotiations between the government, the Taliban, and the United States. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The assault, which occurred before a meeting scheduled between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Afghan elders, culminated in in several bomb explosions and gunfire between Taliban militants and Afghan security forces, killing at least seven people. Negotiations were already under threat, partly because Karzai took offence at the Taliban opening a new office in Doha.

Karzai is likely to have been in the palace at the time of the attack, but was not harmed. Farzad Lameh (@FarzadLameh), Afghan journalist and blogger, tweeted on June 25 from Washington DC:

There was no press conference scheduled at #Afghanistan Presidential Palace today, Afghan officials say. The Pre. was expected 2 meet elders.

Smokes in the Sky of Kabul, the attack of presidential palace. By Twitter user, Wais Barakzai (@WaisBarakzai)

Smokes in the Sky of Kabul, the attack on the presidential palace. By Twitter user, Wais Barakzai (@WaisBarakzai)

Due to the explosions, the U.S Embassy and the presidential palace were both locked down. Said Tayeb Jawad (@AmbassadorJawad), the former Afghan ambassador to the US tweeted:

Press conf cancelled as US Amb @Jim_Dobbins is locked down in US Embassy bunkers and President Karzai @ the Presidential Palace secure loc.

According to Tolonews, Taliban insurgents were able to get into the heavily guarded west gates of the palace using a fake VIP entrance card for their vehicle. The news agency (@Tolonews) tweeted:

Attackers used foreign soldiers fake badges and vehicle passes, which allowed at least one to get inside the heavily guarded area

The assault was launched after James Dobbins, the US envoy responsible for facilitating negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban met Karzai on June 24 in Kabul. The fighting between Taliban and government forces ended after an hour, leaving three security guards and four suicide bombers dead. Afghans terrified of the attacks shared and posted their concerns on various social media outlets including Facebook and Twitter. On Facebook Elly Sharifi wrote:

The horrible feeling of getting up with the sound of gunfire and 16 blasts right after each other…. :( stay safe Kabul.

Mariam Amiri posted:

Every week at least a couple of attacks take place in the Kabul city! It is very sad :(

Sabira L. Moradi shared [fa]:

در امن وبناه خداوند كريم باشيد، دوستان نازنينم دركابل

My dear friends in Kabul, stay safe and under God's mercy.

The terrible attack also worried Afghans living abroad whose families and friends are living in Kabul. Farzad Lameh wrote on his public facebook page:

I could be thousands of miles away, but my heart is still in Kabul. May God keep you all safe.

Also in the wake of yesterday's attack, popular musician Sulyman Qardash tweeted (@crackintheradio):

BE GONE TALIBAN.

Journalist and poet Lina Rozbih-Haidari asked [fa] for people's thoughts about the attacks, in a post on her official Facebook page:

نظر شما در مورد حمله بر عمارت ریاست جمهوری و کشته شدن تمام مهاجمان چیست؟ این حمله در حالی صورت میگیرد که نماینده خاص ایالات متحده در امور افغانستان و پاکستان به کابل سفر کرده است

What is your opinion about the attack on the presidential palace that resulted in the death of the insurgents? The attack took place while the US's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan arrived in Kabul.

Hundreds of angry Afghans commented on the post. Khurshed Aftab stated [fa]:

 بياييد تابو شكنى كنيم و فرياد كنيم كه با دهشت افگنان صلح در كار نيست. ما حاضريم در مقابل تروريستان از ارزش هاى خود دفاع كنيم. ميپرسند مگر تو صلح نميخواهى؟ ميخواهم اين شجاعت را داشته باشم كه بگويم با دهشت افگن صلح نميخواهم، چون او مفهوم صلح را نميفهمد

Let's break the taboo and cry out loud that there is no need to make peace with terrorists. We are prepared to fight them for our values. They will ask, don't you wish for peace? I want to have the courage to say that I do not want peace with terrorist because he does not know the meaning of peace.

محمدامین حنیف argued [fa] that Taliban are becoming increasingly powerful.

نمایش قدرت طالبان است . آنها دیگر واقعاً قدرت حمله به هرجا را در هر موقع که خواسته باشند دارند . همانطوریکه نتیجه انتخابات پاکستان را با ترور و انفجار به نفع طرفداران تندرو خود تغییر دادند در افغانستان هم به همان اندازه قدرت دارند و حتی در ارگ هم نفوذ دارند و مردم آزادی خواه با این گروه نبردی سختی در پیش دارند

This is the sign of Taliban's power. They truly have the control to attack anywhere at anytime they want. Just as they changed the Pakistani elections’ result with terror and attacks for the benefit of their extremist supporters, in Afghanistan they also have the same power, as well as influence over the presidential palace. Supporters of freedom [Afghan people] will have a tough battle ahead.

Hanif Bahman highlighted [fa] that:

در حالیکه دفتری برای طالبان،در قطربا حمایت امریکا تا سیس شده، حمله امروز خندیدن به ریش امریکاوسیلی محکمی به دولت افغانستان بود. این حمله نشان داد که طالبان به مذاکرات و گفتگوهیچ ارزشی قایل نیستند

While the Taliban headquarters was established in Qatar with the support of the United States of America, today's attack was a slap to the faces of the US and Afghan governments. This attack showed that  the Taliban do not value any kind of negotiations or peace talks.

Karzai was expected to announce a road map for peace talks with the Taliban on June 25. But now those plans are hanging in the balance.

Linking to a recent article by the Wall Street Journal, Vali Nasr's (@vali_nasr) wrote on Twitter:

Taliban Attack Presidential Palace…to encourage or discourage Karzai on peace talks? http://on.wsj.com/15BdK3O 

Fawzia Koofi, the female MP recently profiled on Global Voices, told the Tokyo-based current affairs publication The Diplomat:

[The Taliban] is misusing the political privileges it has gotten by opening an office in Doha. The office is in a very rich nation. It has given the armed insurgent many political privileges that they have used as leverage for terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. [The Taliban] is psychologically affecting the lives of the people and creating confusion at a time when there is a need for clarity…There should not be any doubt in anybody’s mind that the peace process cannot be successful unless the Taliban abandons violence, severs itself from Al Qaeda and is honest in its approach. Their present strategy will bring some Taliban to power, but it will not bring peace in the country

Global Voices articles on the current political situation in Afghanistan can be found here, herehere and here.

This post is part of the GV Central Asia Interns Project at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

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