WASHINGTON: The Taliban and its affiliated groups are carrying out major terrorist attacks inside the Afghan capital to grab international media attention ahead of an election in October, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said.
A double suicide blast in Kabul killed 25 people yesterday including an AFP photographer and at least eight other journalists.
"We anticipated that they would do their best to try to bring bombs right into Kabul.
They want them reported," Mattis said here.
"They need international media to, basically, broadcast this going on so they can undercut through those kinds of attacks, what's obviously setting them on their backfoot diplomatically, militarily.
So it's been anticipated," he said.
Asserting that there have been a number of attacks that have been stopped, he regretted that the terrorist groups have gotten through on a few occasions, and in some cases they are targeting the locations where voting will either be going on or registration for polls is being coordinated.
"The Taliban realise the danger of the people being allowed to vote," he said.
Mattis noted that there have been a number of demonstrations from Lashkar Gah to Kandahar to Kabul against the violence of the Taliban, directly against them.
"When you consider that, in these kind of situations, when they go out and they concentrate in a group like that, they are vulnerable because it's impossible to always to have a ring of steel around them, or inside a protected place," he said.
The Taliban delayed announcing their spring offensive until very recently, he said adding that they were taken aback clearly by the combination of last August's fighting and that the US will stay on in the country.
"There have been strikes against their financial networks, and then President Ashraf Ghani came out and said we're willing to talk, to negotiate and it put them on their backfoot.
I think they're now trying to recover in the interim," he said.