SA family killed in Afghanistan ahead of NATO donor meeting

The death of a South African father and his two teenage children come in the wake of a secret order that was signed by president Barack Obama just last week to strengthen the combat role of American troops in Afghanistan.

Insurgents have targeted foreign guesthouses, embassy vehicles, US troops and a female member of parliament in recent weeks.

Werner Groenewald, 46, his son Jean-Pierre, 17, and daughter Rode, 15, were killed in Saturday’s attack on the compound of Partnership in Academics and Development (PAD), a small California-based education group.

Obama has secretly signed an order that expands the United States’ direct combat role in Afghanistan throughout 2015, the New York Times reported.

The secret order permits American forces to continue to battle the Taliban and other militants that pose a threat to either the Afghan government or US personnel.

According to the Times, US jets, bombers, and drones will be able to aid ground troops – be they Afghan or US forces – in whatever mission they undertake.

This marks a significant expansion of America’s role in Afghanistan in 2015. The new revelation that the U.S. is quietly planning to increase troop numbers in Afghanistan above publicly pledged levels is just the latest indication that the end of the war is, in fact, nowhere near.

Meanwhile, new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has a much softer position on the US presence in his country compared to his predecessor Hamid Karzai.

Ghani removed restrictions against US airstrikes and joint raids that were implemented by Karzai.

Werner’s wife Hannelie, a doctor, was working at a hospital when the attack began, Hannelie’s sister Riana du Plessis, who is acting as family spokeswoman, told AFP.

Explosions and gunfire erupted for three hours as Afghan elite commandos battled three militants who were eventually killed.

“Their house was burned down,” Ms du Plessis said, speaking in South Africa. “Hannelie went back there this morning to try to recover some of their goods, but there was nothing to recover.

“She lost everything — her children, her husband, her cats, her dogs.” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed on Twitter that the compound was that of a secret Christian missionary group.

According to South African sources the Groenewalds recieved a warning ahead of the attack. The three victims suffered immensely, as they bled to death while being suffocated, the source said.

Werner was previously a Christian pastor in Pretoria, while Hannelie is a qualified doctor who answered the call “to help the sick in Afghanistan”.

Kabul police chief General Zahir Zahir stepped down on Sunday shortly after he confirmed the attack.

The killing of the Groenewald family occured just days ahead of a NATO donor meeting in Brussels and London.

President Ashraf Ghani, who came to power in September after signing a power-sharing deal with his poll rival Abdullah Abdullah.

Ghani was due to give a televised address on Sunday evening to announce that a deal had been reached over cabinet positions in the new government.

Ghani and Abdullah will fly to Brussels on Monday for NATO meetings, and to London on Wednesday for a donor conference designed to showcase the “national unity government” and demonstrate continuing international support for Afghanistan.

American news sources did not disclose the nationality of the Groenewalds.