(BLOOMBERG) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was greeted on his first visit to Afghanistan since taking office by suicide bombs, threats and Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s accusation that the U.S. is colluding with the Taliban.
As Hagel prepared to leave a U.S. military compound in Kabul on March 9, a Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up outside the Ministry of Defense, and another suicide bomb detonated in Khost province. Yesterday, Karzai said that those attacks, which together killed 19 people, aided U.S. goals. A joint Hagel-Karzai press conference at the presidential palace was canceled for what Pentagon officials said were security reasons.
While the Taliban said the attacks were aimed at sending a message to Hagel that the insurgents remain a powerful force, Karzai said in a speech yesterday that the U.S. is holding peace talks with the radical Islamists and the bombs were in the “service of America.”