Militants staged two suicide attacks that killed at least 19 people on Saturday, the first full day of U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's visit to Afghanistan. They were a fresh reminder of the challenges posed by insurgents to the U.S.-led NATO force as it hands over the country's security to the Afghans.
"This attack was a message to him," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said of Hagel, in an email to reporters about the bombing outside the country's Defense Ministry in Kabul.
Hagel was nowhere near that attack, but heard it across the city. He told reporters traveling with him that he wasn't sure what it was when he heard the explosion.
"We're in a war zone. I've been in war, so shouldn't be surprised when a bomb goes off or there's an explosion," said Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran. Asked what his message to the Taliban would be, he said that the U.S. was going to continue to work with its allies to insure that the Afghan people have the ability to develop their own country and democracy.