A car bomb in Afghanistan has killed at least 24 people and wounded more than one hundred others, including children. Most of the victims were students staying at a guest house while preparing for exams. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the blast in Logar province, which struck as people broke their fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
The attack comes as US and NATO begin formally withdrawing troops.
Western military involvement in Afghanistan began nearly 20 years ago, when US-led forces went in just days after the September 11th terror attacks in 2001. The mission of the US and its allies: To make the world ‘safe from terrorism’ by removing the Taliban, which had allowed Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda network to operate from Afghan territory.
The Taliban regime was quickly overthrown – but achieving peace in Afghanistan has proved elusive.
With international assistance, a civilian government was set up in Kabul led by President Hamid Karzai.
But the Taliban regrouped and began carrying out attacks and regaining control of parts of the country.
Despite a peak of 140,000 NATO troops in 2011, international and Afghan forces have been unable to defeat the Taliban.
In 2014, NATO ended its combat mission and transferred full security control to Kabul. Since then, NATO-led troops have helped train and assist their Afghan counterparts; currently about 9,500 international soldiers remain. The US, which supplies the largest contingent, has announced it will complete its troop withdrawal by September.
The Taliban has sought to negotiate with the Afghan government, but so far talks have stalled. A recent US intelligence analysis concluded that the Kabul government would likely struggle to hold the Taliban at bay once foreign troops leave the country.
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