An explosion near the entrance of Kabul Education University in central Afghanistan killed at least 10 people and wounded over 20 on Saturday afternoon. The bomb detonated around 3 pm at a security checkpoint near the gates of the university, leaving a scene of devastation.
Taliban fighters claimed responsibility for the attack, highlighting the ability of the insurgency to conduct violence. Afghan civilian casualties rose 23 percent in the first half of 2013 over the same period in 2012 as foreign forces prepare to withdraw and Afghan troops have taken the lead on security matters.
The explosion occurred less than 300 feet from a large tent where more than 2,000 leading Afghans will meet on Thursday in the traditional Loya Jirga, the council of tribal elders. The tribal leaders will be meeting to debate a new to debate a new U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement that may keep some American troops in the country for up to ten more years. The U.S. is willing to keep as many as 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, largely as non-fighting forces to continue training the Afghan military, but also to target terrorists.
An Afghan policeman at the scene of a recent car bomb in Kabul. (Photo: AP)
Hours before the blast, President Hamid Karzai announced in a news conference that Afghan officials and U.S. negotiators completed the draft bilateral security agreement. He expressed hope that the Loya Jirga would approve the agreement, but U.S. and Afghanistan officials could find a final agreement hard to reach. Specifically Karzai is determined to bar Western troops from entering private homes and mosques, and has steadfastly refused Washington’s demand that U.S. troops should only fall under the jurisdiction of American military courts.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spent hours negotiating with Karzai last month, ultimately only reaching a broad understanding, not a final agreement. If no agreement is signed, all U.S. troops may be completely withdrawn by the end of 2014, as they withdrew from Iraq in the absence of a security agreement. Half of the 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan are already set to leave by next February.