Afghan security forces were on high alert Saturday as the war-weary country, reeling from a number of high-profile deadly attacks, marked its independence day with muted celebrations.
There was an increased police presence in the capital Kabul where President Ashraf Ghani hosted a private ceremony for Afghan dignitaries.
“All of our police units are on the highest state of alert and they are placed everywhere across the city,” Kabul police spokesman Abdul Basir Mujahid told Agence France Presse.
“We have increased the number of police checkpoints in and around the diplomatic quarters (too),” he added, amid fears that the Taliban would mark the anniversary with a large-scale attack.
August 19 commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi in 1919, which granted Afghanistan full independence from Britain, although the country was never part of the British empire, after three bloody wars.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump is “studying and considering his options” for a new approach to Afghanistan and the broader South Asia region, the White House said Friday after the president huddled with his top national security aides at Camp David.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a brief statement saying Trump had been briefed extensively on a new strategy to “protect America’s interests” in the region. She did not specifically mention Afghanistan.
“The president is studying and considering his options and will make an announcement to the American people, to our allies and partners, and to the world at the appropriate time,” she said.
The administration has struggled for months to formulate a new approach to the war. But stepping up the fight in a way that advances peace prospects may be even more difficult, in part because the Taliban has been gaining ground and shown no interest in peace negotiations.
Kabul has been on edge since a massive truck bomb ripped through its diplomatic quarter during morning rush hour on May 31, killing about 150 and wounding around 400 people, mostly civilians, in an unclaimed attack.
Taliban insurgents are currently at the peak of their summer fighting season and have launched several deadly assaults around the country in recent weeks.