New Delhi: Afghanistan vice-presidential candidate and former national security advisor Amrullah Saleh narrowly survived a suicide attack in Kabul, which went on until late Sunday evening at the offices of his Green Trends political party on the outskirts of the city.
A close friend of India, Saleh has been extremely vocal about the nexus between the Pakistani deep state and terror groups like the Taliban and Haqqani Network which have targeted Afghan civilians as well as Indians serving in Afghanistan.
The attack on Saleh came on the first day of the campaign for presidential elections slated for 28 September, but equally, the attackers seem to have been emboldened by the impending negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
Sources in the Afghan government told ThePrint that negotiations between the US and Taliban on the one hand and the US and Pakistan on the other, speeding up an American withdrawal from Afghanistan, seems to have emboldened the attackers.
Last week, US President Donald Trump, with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan standing next to him in Washington DC, reportedly said, “We are working with Pakistan to get an agreement signed with the Taliban”.
Imran Khan responded, “This is the closest we’ve been to a peace deal in Afghanistan. There is no military solution in Afghanistan.”
‘Undermining constitutional process’
None other than Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, whose running mate is Saleh, described the attack as “complex” carried out by “enemies of the state”.
My brother, true son of the Afghan soil and first VP candidate of my electoral team, @AmrullahSaleh2 has survived a complex attack by enemies of the state. We are relieved and thank the almighty that attack has failed.
— Ashraf Ghani (@ashrafghani) July 28, 2019
Although Ghani did not name Pakistan, he has been highly critical of the Pakistani establishment continuing role in destabilising Afghanistan.
The Afghan sources said the attack involved “four suicide bombers and a vehicle laden with explosives”. The suicide bombers rammed their car into Saleh’s four-storey office building and “followed up” by sending in the bombers who were on foot.
The loud blast could be heard across the entire city.
A late evening statement by India’s Ministry of External Affairs condemned the attack, adding that it was “aimed at undermining the constitutional and democratic processes and institutions in Afghanistan”.
The attack on Saleh now puts a question mark not only on the September presidential elections but also on the ongoing withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.