The Taliban have announced on Thursday they will begin their spring offensive in Afghanistan, only a day after U.S. President Barack Obama flew into the country to declare an end to NATO's involvement in the country after more than ten years of war.
The announcement came after seven people were killed in an early morning suicide attack on a compound for international workers in Kabul on Wednesday, with the Taliban claiming the assault was a response to Obama's visit. The U.S. president entered into a strategic partnership pact with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Eyewitnesses said a series of loud explosions and sustained gunfire were heard shortly after 6 am local time, with reports gunmen had breached the Green Village compound walls.
The attacks were carried out by insurgents disguised as women, with at least one car bomb killing a Gurkha guard and six passers-by, Reuters reported.
This attack was to make clear our reaction to Obama's trip to Afghanistan. The message was that instead of signing a strategic partnership deal with Afghanistan, he should think about taking his troops out from Afghanistan and leave it to Afghans to rebuild their country, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.
The start of the annual fighting season usually heralds a surge in attacks on NATO forces as melting winter snows allow insurgents greater ease of movement around the country.
The Taliban announcement comes in the wake of a string of recent bombings, despite a security clamp-down in the capital ahead of the presidential visit.
Obama laid out his plan to end the war in Afghanistan during a surprise visit to the country on Tuesday night, saying that U.S. troops will leave by the end of 2014.
Speaking at Bagram airbase south of Kabul just before dawn on Wednesday, Obama said that this time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end, with a just and lasting peace.