In the largest attack in Kabul since the original 2001 invasion of U.S.-led forces against the Taliban, the Afghan military, along with U.S. and NATO forces, successfully sieged a terrorist-controlled building in a counter-attack that lasted twenty hours. Their initial strike was at the U.S. embassy and the capitol’s diplomatic enclave.
With the U.S. embassy half a mile away from their base of operations, attacks with rocket-propelled grenades were ineffective. U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said, “Six or seven rockets hit inside the embassy perimeter during the early hours of the attack but the range meant they had not posed a serious threat. They were firing from at least 800 meters away and with an RPG that’s harassment. That’s not an attack.”
Well, not an effective attack on the embassies, but in addition to briefly capturing the building, a multi-story office then under construction, the terrorists staged three concurrent suicide bombings.
No coalition forces were injured, no one at the embassy was injured, and the suicide attackers almost equal the Afghan victims. Three Afghani police were killed re-taking the building, another officer was killed by one of the bombs. Three Afghani people were killed at the building and eight more by the bombs. About thirty more people were injured, and about half of the victims were children. There were nine terrorists directly involved in the attacks, none of whom were taken alive; six in the building and three suicide bombers.
The building itself became the focus for coalition forces for the next 20 hours, as the half-dozen terrorists had stockpiled many RPGs and other explosives, and rigged the whole site with traps. The Afghan-led sweep had to go room-to-room for the entire complex, checking for IEDs the whole way up.
“‘Operationally and strategically it’s not a big deal. But tactically the operation certainly was a success. I mean, it garnered international headlines,’ said Jeffrey Dressler, a senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. ‘It was just days after 9/11. And it demonstrates that even though insurgents aren’t capable of taking over Kabul, the ability of them to project an attack like that into the city and have one carry out for 20 hours is certainly significant.'”
The attacks are believed to have been the work of the Haqqani network, an ally of the Taliban led by Jalaluddin Haqqani. With Osama Bin Laden dead, the U.S. and Afghani forces have engaged in peace talks with the Taliban (although they’ve recently taken a turn for worse, as the Taliban just murdered the negotiator, former president of Afghanistan Burhanuddin Rabbani, likely as a sign of solidarity with the Haqqani).
Haqqani, opposed to peace with the U.S. and it’s allies, is not just inclined to attack Afghanis and Americans, but the attack is generally considered to be their style; the once-Pakistani terrorist group is partially responsible for training and shaping the Taliban, and is the organization that originally gave the Taliban the suicide bomber.
The main worry about these attacks is that they may improve Afghani and Pakistani radicals’ perceptions of the terrorists groups and gain recruits. It certainly isn’t that the terrorists are getting more sophisticated or even particularly capable. Still, they did succeed at killing a few people, who have our sympathies.