Afghanistan’s president on Monday vowed to “eliminate” all safe havens of the militant Islamic State group as the country marked a subdued 100th Independence Day after a horrific wedding attack claimed by the local IS affiliate. President Ashraf Ghani’s comments came as Afghanistan mourns at least 63 people, including children, killed in the Kabul bombing at a wedding hall late on Saturday night. Close to 200 others were wounded.
Many outraged Afghans ask whether an approaching deal between the United States and the Taliban to end nearly 18 years of fighting America’s longest war will bring peace to long-suffering civilians. The bomber detonated his explosives in the middle of a dancing crowd, and the IS affiliate later said he had targeted a gathering of minority Shias, whom it views as apostates deserving of death. Both the bride and groom survived, and in an emotional interview with local broadcaster Tolo News the distraught groom, Mirwais Alani, said their lives were devastated within seconds.
A sharply worded Taliban statement questioned why the US failed to identify the attackers in advance. Another Taliban statement marking the independence day said to “leave Afghanistan to the Afghans”. More than anything in its nearly year-long negotiations with the US, the Taliban want some 20,000 US and allied forces to withdraw from the country. The US envoy in talks with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, on Sunday said the peace process should be accelerated to help Afghanistan defeat the IS affiliate.—INP