Afghan President Hamid Karzai has appealed to the Taliban to stop their attacks, saying renewed violence is only serving to prolong foreign presence in Afghanistan.
President Karzai's comments on Tuesday came a day after an 18-hour insurgent offensive across Afghanistan claimed the lives of four civilians, 11 Afghan security personnel and 36 militants.
Addressing an audience of college students in Kabul, Mr. Karzai said violence by the Taliban does not benefit Islam, Muslims or the Afghan people.
“You did nothing for Islam, you did not work for Afghanistan's independence and you did not work for its people, freedom and development. You worked to prolong a foreign presence.”
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the coordinated assaults on embassies, government buildings and NATO military bases, which ended Monday. But Afghan and U.S. officials blame the Pakistan-based Haqqani network.
The violence comes as NATO foreign and defense ministers prepare to meet Wednesday in Brussels, where they are expected to discuss the planned withdrawal of all of the nearly 130,000 foreign combat troops by the end of 2014. Ministers will lay the groundwork for next month's NATO summit in Chicago.
That plan seemed to take a hit on Tuesday, when Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that her country's troops would begin pulling out of Afghanistan one year earlier than planned.
Ms. Gillard said said most of her country's 1,550 troops would return home by the end of 2013, thanks in part to security improvements and the death of Osama bin Laden.
Australia is not the first country to begin accelerating its withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Earlier this year, France said its combat forces would also leave the country by the end of 2013, also a year ahead of schedule.
Many observers fear that other countries could follow suit, leading to a dangerous “race to the exits” as the over decade-long war winds down.
But others are taking a more optimistic stance, praising the quick response of the Afghan security forces for limiting the damage of the most recent insurgent attacks.
On Monday, President Karzai said the attacks were an “intelligence failure for us and especially for NATO” and demanded a full investigation.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attacks in the strongest possible terms. He noted the Afghan forces' efforts in responding to the attack and called on all parties to do everything possible to protect civilians.
The U.N. Security Council also condemned the attacks, which came at a time of increased tension between coalition and Afghan forces over several incidents, including the accidental burning of Qurans and a deadly attack by a U.S. soldier that killed 17 Afghan villagers.