KABUL (Reuters) - Two Taliban suicide bombers carried out separate attacks on Afghan army vehicles in Kabul on Wednesday, killing seven people and injuring 19, the government said, a day after Afghanistan signed security deals with NATO and the United States.
The agreements will allow foreign troops to stay in the country after the end of the year, filling a campaign promise by new President Ashraf Ghani.
“An Afghan army bus and another car carrying Afghan army personnel were targeted by two suicide bombings,” deputy interior minister General Ayoub Salanghi said in a statement.
The Taliban, fighting to oust foreign forces and the U.S-backed government, claimed responsibility for the attacks in the east and west of the city.
The attack in the west, close to Kabul University, was the more serious of the two. It destroyed the army bus and killed at least seven people, the Defense Ministry said.
The Taliban also criticised Ghani and his government for allowing foreign troops to stay after the year ends, calling it a “stooge regime” that was disregarding Afghanistan’s long-term interests.
“The signatories of this pact and its backers shall all be forever ingrained as foreign slaves in the history books and memories of the Afghans,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.
The agreements will allow a contingent of 12,000 foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan, most of them to continue training the Afghan security forces. It will include a U.S. force of 1,800 personnel who will work on counter-terrorism missions.
Afghan officials hope that the security deals will boost morale in the country’s security forces and restore confidence in the economy, which has been battered by the drawdown of troops and fear of a full U.S. military withdrawal.
A fall in economic activity and tax revenues has left such a big hole in the government’s budget that it has to delay salary payments to civil servants this month.
The Finance Ministry has indicated the shortfall to be about $500 million and has asked foreign donors to help plug the gap. The United States, along with others, says it is evaluating the size of the bail-out and considering what can be done.
“There’s not going to be any new money from the donors,” U.S. ambassador James Cunningham said on Wednesday. “What we can do is work together to try to shift the timing of when the funds arrive.”
Reporting by Jessica Donati and Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Nick Macfie and Robert Birsel