The tenuous nature of efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan were dramatically underscored Tuesday morning when gunmen attacked buildings near Afghanistan's presidential palace in Kabul as journalists were gathering to hear from President Hamid Karzai about nascent plans for peace talks with the Taliban.
According to The Associated Press, four or five "suicide attackers set up a car bomb and battled security forces outside Afghanistan's presidential palace after infiltrating one of the most secure areas of the capital. All the attackers were killed and one palace security guard was wounded, officials said." (9:55 a.m. ET: See update below.)
The BBC adds that "Karzai was in the palace, but the target appears to have been the nearby Ariana hotel, which houses a CIA station."
The Taliban has claimed responsibility, according to The Guardian and other news outlets. "This is very much a message that 'we can still do war as well as peace,' " Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Network tells the Guardian.
Reuters says the "brazen assault ... could derail attempts for peace talks to end 12 years of war. ... A U.S. envoy was in Kabul on Tuesday to try to smooth the way forward for the stalled talks in the Gulf state of Qatar ahead of the pullout from Afghanistan of most of the NATO-led troops next year. He had been expected to meet reporters at the U.S. embassy, but the conference was called off. [As was Karzai's appearance.]"
And The New York Times notes that "the attack came just days after the Taliban opened an office in Doha, Qatar, ostensibly for starting negotiations about a peace process. It raised new questions about divisions within the Taliban and whether there is any broad commitment to peace."
Update at 9:55 a.m. ET. Eight Attackers, Three Guards Killed:
According to The Associated Press: "Taliban militants stormed the presidential compound Tuesday after bluffing their way past two checkpoints, triggering a gun battle that left eight attackers and three guards dead and sent journalists attending an official event scrambling for cover, officials and witnesses said."