Taliban Has 'No Intention or Willingness' for Peace, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Says

After at least three rockets hit near the presidential palace in a suspected Taliban attack, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the Taliban has "no intention or willingness" for peace.

"The Taliban have no intention and willingness for peace," Ghani said. "We have proven that we have the intention, the willingness and have sacrificed for peace."

There were no injuries, according to Mirwais Stanikzai, spokesman for the interior minister, but the attack has raised concerns over the state of the country and future potential peace as it came as U.S. and NATO troops are completing the full withdrawal from Afghanistan.

More than 95 percent of U.S. troops have pulled out of Afghanistan, and President Joe Biden said in an address earlier this month that the withdrawal will be complete by Aug. 31.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Eid Celebration
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN- JULY 20: Afghan Ministry of Health vaccinator Dr. Rashed vaccinates Afghans with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine outside the Eid Gah mosque on the first day of Eid Al-Adha holiday on July 20, 2021 in Kabul, Afghanistan. During Eid prayer three rockets landed near the Presidential Palace, where President Ashraf Ghani and other politicians attended a special prayer. Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, but police quickly fanned out across the area. One car parked on a nearby street was completely destroyed; the police said it was used as a launching pad for the rockets.

The palace is in the middle of a so-called Green Zone that is fortified with giant cement blast walls and barbed wire, and streets near the palace have long been closed off.

Many Afghans are worried whether their war-ravaged country will fall deeper into chaos and violence as foreign forces withdraw and the Taliban gain more territory on the ground, having captured several districts and key border crossings with neighboring countries over the past weeks.

"This Eid has been named after Afghan forces to honor their sacrifices and courage, especially in the last three months," Ghani said in his address to the nation following morning prayers for the major Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, or the "Feast of Sacrifice."

However, Afghan forces have complained about being left without reinforcements and supplies, often running low on food as the Taliban advanced. In many instances, Afghan troops surrendered rather than fight. Washington's watchdog monitoring U.S. spending in Afghanistan reported that troops are deeply demoralized and corruption is rampant. After their pullout, the U.S. and NATO are committed to spending $4 billion annually on Afghan forces until 2024, the majority of that money coming from Washington.

Ghani said he deplored his government's decision to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners to get peace talks started last year as a "big mistake" that only strengthened the insurgents.

Yet Ghani has released other prisoners, including several sought by warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, with whom he signed a peace deal in 2017. Among those freed at Hekmatyar's request was Abdul Basir Salangi, who killed two U.S. military personnel in 2011 in Kabul.

Meanwhile, Abdullah Abdullah, the No. 2 official in the government, was inside the palace during the rocket attack on Tuesday, having returned on Monday from peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar. Those inside the palace, however, were far removed from where the rockets landed.

The two days of meetings in Doha — the highest level of negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban so far — aimed at jumpstarting stalled talks but ended with a promise of more high-level talks.

In his speech, Ghani also assailed neighboring Pakistan, which Kabul blames for harboring the Taliban leadership and providing a safe haven and assistance to the insurgents. In the most recent fighting in the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak, Taliban fighters were seen receiving treatment at a Pakistani hospital across the border in Chaman.

Pakistan is seen as key to peace in Afghanistan. The Taliban leadership is headquartered in Pakistan and Islamabad has used its leverage, which it calims is now waning, to press the Taliban to talk peace.

Pakistan has also been deeply critical of Kabul, saying it has allowed another militant group, the Pakistani Taliban — Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan — to find safety in Afghanistan from where they have launched a growing number of attacks targeting the Pakistan military.

"Pakistan does not want a Taliban regime in its homeland" but their media have been "campaigning for a Taliban regime in Afghanistan," Ghani added.

The Eid al-Adha is the most important Islamic holiday, marking the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim — Abraham to Christians and Jews — to sacrifice his son. During the holiday, which in most places lasts four days, Muslims slaughter sheep or cattle and distribute part of the meat to the poor.

Car involved in rocket attack
Security personnel inspect a damaged vehicle where rockets were fired from in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. At least three rockets hit near the presidential palace on Tuesday shortly before Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was to give an address to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha. Rahmat Gul/AP Photo