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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rice: U.S. Won't Abandon Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Rockets exploded in Afghanistan's capital on Wednesday and six soldiers and five aid workers were killed in attacks blamed on Taliban insurgents as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited for talks.

Taliban gunmen killed two doctors, two nurses and a driver working with an Afghan relief agency in the southern province of Kandahar as they returned from a visit to a village, a director of the agency said.

Before dawn, a rocket that exploded outside the Canadian ambassador's residence in Kabul wounded a guard, and a second rocket damaged a government building. Later, six government troops were reported killed in a Taliban ambush in the central province of Uruzgan, the provincial governor said.

Rice, who arrived on Wednesday on a short stop on a tour of central Asia, played down the violence, the latest in a spate of militant attacks after September elections.

"The attacks after the elections are a clear indication of the frustration that exists [because] of the success in Afghanistan of the political process," she said after meeting President Hamid Karzai in his heavily fortified presidential palace.

The September elections went ahead despite Taliban pledges to disrupt them and presidential polls in October 2004 that gave U.S.-backed Karzai the country's top job.

Unlike on previous trips to the country, reporters accompanying Rice were compelled to wear bulletproof vests and armed guards rode with them from the airport to the presidential palace.

Rice was in Kabul to reaffirm the United States' commitment to Afghanistan after leading the effort to oust the previous Islamic fundamentalist Taliban rulers. She also wanted to discuss the future of some 18,000 troops deployed in the country.

An official familiar with U.S. military plans said after the meeting with Karzai that Washington did want to reduce its forces in Afghanistan by about 3,000 to 4,000 starting in the next few months as NATO takes on more responsibility.

The Canadian ambassador's residence, where one of the rockets exploded on Wednesday, is tucked away behind a heavily fortified street of the diplomatic enclave, about one kilometer from the presidential palace, the U.S. embassy and the headquarters of the NATO-led peacekeeping mission.

The second rocket landed inside an intelligence department office not far from the palace, police said. They said no one had been wounded but that the rocket had caused some damage.

Residents said another rocket had hit elsewhere in the city, but this could not be immediately confirmed.

Rice emphasized during her visit to Afghanistan that the United States remained committed to the country in the long term.

She said Washington would not repeat the mistake of abandoning the country as it did after the then-Soviet Union was ejected in 1989.

"The Afghan people have nothing to worry about. Having made the mistake of leaving this region once, ... America is going to be in and with Afghanistan as long as we are needed," she said.