By Abdul Haleem, Jawed Omid
KABUL, June 26 (Xinhua)-- Armed militants identified with the Taliban staged a daring attack Tuesday morning at the eastern gate of Presidential Palace here, leaving over a dozen people dead, including the attackers.
The blatant attack, Afghan political analysts said, is part of Taliban's attempts to demonstrate its power and get concessions at the proposed peace negotiations in Doha, capital of Qatar. "By targeting the Presidential Palace, the Taliban wanted to demonstrate its power to both the U.S. and Afghan government that they are able of targeting any place, including the highly- fortified Presidential Palace,"said political analyst Wahid Mujda, a member of Kabul-based think-tank Research Center for Strategy Studies.
In the brazen attack which occurred at 06:30 a.m. local time, according to local media reports, 14 people, including eight attackers and six Palace guards, were killed and two others were injured.
Tuesday's attack against Presidential Palace, located just next to Defense Ministry, U.S. embassy, Afghan intelligence directorate and NATO-led forces headquarters, came as the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins was visiting Kabul for talks with President Hamid Karzai over the proposed peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar.
U.S. President Barack Obama himself has confirmed that the U.S. was willing to conduct a dialogue with the Taliban.
The Taliban opened its liaison office in Doha on June 18 in its bid to hold a dialogue with the U.S. to find a negotiated settlement of Afghanistan's protracted instability.
A delegation of High Peace Council, the government-backed peace making body, according to Afghan officials, would soon visit Doha to hold direct talks with the Taliban representatives there.
However, a Doha-based Taliban representative Mohammad Naeem has reportedly rejected any talks with Afghan government, saying the opposite side in the talks with Taliban should be "the U.S. and not the Kabul regime." "In countering U.S. military pressure, Taliban is conducting massive suicide attacks in Kabul or elsewhere in the country to display their strength and enter the proposed peace talks from a strong position," said Mujda, a former Taliban civilian official during the its six-year rule.
The Taliban, ousted from power by a U.S.-led coalition in 2011, has since waged a deadly guerrilla war against the Karzai government and the U.S.-led NATO forces.
Another local political observer, retired General Atiqullah Omarkhil, said that it is natural for warring sides elsewhere in the world to strive to strengthen their military positions before holding political negotiations. "Since the Taliban fighters have realized that the war cannot be won by militancy, they have chosen negotiation, but before entering any dialogue they began flexing their muscles to have a strong bargaining position during the talks," Omarkhil said.
But Omarkhil also blamed security lapses for the attack, saying that government intelligence agencies failed to anticipate the attack right on Afghanistan's seat of power.
The Afghan government has called on Taliban to sever ties with al-Qaida, renounce violence and accept the country's Constitution before entering the peace dialogue, a pre-condition that the militant group has yet to agree.