KABUL/BRUSSELS: Afghan forces killed the Taliban mastermind of a car bomb suicide bombing that killed at least 30 security personnel, officials said Monday.
Hamza Waziristani was killed overnight in an airstrike in eastern Ghazni Province, where a bomber targeted an Afghan military base on Sunday.
“The mastermind behind the terrorist attack on the (Ghazni) base yesterday was murdered along with seven other terrorists,” the Ministry of Defense said in a statement.
Fawad Aman, the ministry’s spokesperson, said Waziristani was a Taliban militant from Waziristan’s Pakistani border zone.
The attack was one of the deadliest attacks in months targeting government forces in Afghanistan, where fighting has surged between the administration of President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban in Qatar since peace talks began.
The Taliban do not always elaborate on the deadly attacks they are accused of perpetrating.
Since signing an agreement with Washington in February that paved the way for the withdrawal of foreign troops by May 2021, the insurgents have launched near regular attacks against Afghan forces, mainly in rural areas.
Health officials in Ghazni said 30 individuals died in Sunday’s attack, but 10 were killed by the defence ministry, which is known to downplay tolls in attacks against its troops.
In recent weeks, violence has also surged in Kabul, with more than 50 people killed in two attacks on education centres and a grenade strike.
The jihadist Islamic State group announced the three Kabul assaults, but Afghan officials blamed the Taliban, who denied any involvement.
Nato mulls US drawdown
On Monday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance is struggling with a problem about the prospects in Afghanistan, when the U.S. continues to phase out forces as Taliban and militant groups attacks increase.
In Afghanistan, more than 17 years after taking the lead in international security activities, NATO now has about 11,000 soldiers from dozens of countries helping to train and guide national security forces. The rest of the staff are from Europe and other partner countries of Nato.
But for air cover, transport and logistics, the coalition depends heavily on the U.S. armed forces. Even without US support, European allies will fail to leave the region, and President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out nearly half of the US troops by mid-January leaves Nato in a bind.
A tough problem is facing us. Whether to withdraw, and whether to risk Afghanistan becoming a safe harbour for foreign terrorists again. Or stay and risk a longer mission, with renewed violence, Stoltenberg told reporters on the eve of a Nato foreign ministers’ video conference.
Under a peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban, without the involvement of other NATO allies or the Afghan government, if security conditions on the ground permit, all foreign troops should leave Afghanistan by May 1.
It is critical that we do so together, whichever direction we chose, in a synchronised and deliberate manner, Stoltenberg said on the eve of a video conference between NATO foreign ministers, where the most ambitious organisations ever will be high on the agenda.