U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel got a stark taste of the challenges that continue to bedevil Afghanistan on Saturday, as insurgents carried out two deadly bombings, one within earshot of the Pentagon chief.
Hagel’s first full day in Kabul as defense chief started ominously, as a suicide bomber riding a bicycle detonated explosives outside the main gate of the Defense Ministry, a rare security breach in one of the capital’s most heavily policed areas.
The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and said the ministry was the target. They said in a statement the attack "is a kind of message" for Hagel.
The blast underscored the security challenges facing Afghanistan as U.S.-led NATO forces prepare to leave the country by the end of 2014.
Hagel, who arrived in Afghanistan on Friday for his first trip abroad as defense secretary, is due to hold talks with President Hamid Karzai, whose recent orders to curtail U.S. military activity highlights an often tense relationship with the 66,000 American forces here.
And so will the signs!