KABUL: Taliban bombers attacked a heavily fortified guesthouse used by Westerners in Kabul on Wednesday, announcing the start of their annual "spring offensive" in defiance of calls from the US President, Mr Barack Obama during a visit to Afghanistan that the war was ending.
Seven people were killed after attackers dressed in burqas detonated a suicide car bomb and clashed with guards at the ‘Green Village’ complex of guesthouses used by the European Union, the United Nations and aid groups, officials said.
The attackers’ ability to penetrate a tightened security cordon in the capital raises fresh concern about the resilience of the insurgency on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death as NATO winds down its combat presence in the next two years and hands over responsibility for security to Afghan forces.
The Taliban said the assault was a riposte to Mr Obama, who just hours earlier signed a new partnership pact set to govern Afghan-US relations after 2014.
In an election-year address, Mr Obama presented himself as a commander-in-chief capable of ending two long wars, following the US troop withdrawal from Iraq, and of crushing al-Qaeda, and tried to conjure up a new dawn for an US public exhausted by conflict and recession. "This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end," Mr Obama said, recalling a decade-long "dark cloud of war" after bin Laden plotted the September 11 attacks in 2001. "Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon," said Mr Obama, seeking a second White House term later this year.
Mr Obama flew into Kabul in secret in the dead of night and signed a deal with President, Mr Hamid Karzai, cementing ten years of US aid for Afghanistan after NATO combat troops leave in 2014. "We look forward to a future of peace. We’re agreeing to be long-term partners," Mr Obama said at Mr Karzai’s palace. The US President left after six hours on the ground. About two hours later, the Green Village assault began.