You are hereAfghan Forces Repel 18 Hour Taliban Attack
Afghan Forces Repel 18 Hour Taliban Attack
The Pentagon says the militant Haqqani network, based in Pakistan, is likely behind the coordinated attacks carried out throughout Afghanistan.
Nearly 18 hours of fighting in the capital and parts of three provinces ended early Monday, when Afghan troops backed by NATO helicopters attacked a building in Kabul where the last militants were hiding. Witnesses said they watched rocket-propelled grenades crash into the building repeatedly before dawn.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks, but both Afghanistan's Interior Minister Besmillah Mohammadi and the Pentagon blamed the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network, which is said to operate out of sanctuaries in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters the assault was not unexpected because this is the start of the Taliban's spring offensive. He said the Pentagon will look into possible intelligence gaps.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the attacks were an "intelligence failure by us and especially NATO" and demanded a full investigation. During a Cabinet meeting in Kabul, he praised Afghan security forces' courage and their ability to defend the country. The top U.S. and NATO commander in the country, American General John Allen, agreed, praising the Afghans' quick and well-coordinated response to the attacks.
The president's office said four civilians and 11 Afghan security personnel were killed in the attacks. Authorities arrested one insurgent and killed 36 others during the fighting that began on Sunday.
In Kabul, militants attacked parliament, NATO headquarters and an area that includes the U.S., German and British embassies. They also staged assaults in three eastern provinces - Nangarhar, Logar and Paktia.
Western embassies said none of their staff members was hurt during the 18-hour ordeal.
Coalition spokesman Carsten Jacobson said insurgents fired at targets indiscriminately, not to "achieve a military success, but to achieve publicity."
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday condemned the attacks in the strongest possible terms. He noted Afghan forces' efforts in responding to the attack and called on all parties to take all possible measures to protect civilians.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the attacks "cowardly" in a call Sunday to the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker.
Violence has continued in Afghanistan as coalition forces have begun withdrawing from the country and transferring security duties to their Afghan counterparts.
The United States and Afghanistan are pushing toward completion of a long-term strategic agreement defining the U.S. presence in Afghanistan once all foreign combat troops leave the country by 2014.
After early morning explosions and heavy gunfire on Monday shook the Afghan capital and three other Afghan provinces, the Ministry of Interior says fighting that began a day earlier has now ended. Authorities say more than 30 insurgents were killed in the attacks, as well as some soldiers, police officers and civilians.
Hajji Matullah Seddiqi was finishing up his lunch on Sunday afternoon with his wife and two children when he heard gunshots. He looked outside and saw one of the gunmen's vehicles.
“It's a big car, a land cruiser I think, its black," he said. "One man when he dropped down on the street he just fire, fire and the people are going, they want to empty the street first and they shot down on one people, one soldier.”
He said the men shot several people before entering a nearby building, beginning an 18-hour standoff that ended early Monday. Seddiqi spent nearly all of it hiding with his family in his parent's basement.
Afghan and international forces finally put down the assault following pre-dawn assaults by U.S.-led coalition helicopters. The Ministry of Interior reports the fighting has also ended in the eastern cities of Jalalabad, Gardez and Pul-e-Alam, where suicide bombers tried to storm a NATO base, an airport and police installations.
General Carsten Jacobson, the spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, says the coordinated attacks all employed the same tactics.
“Small groups, packages of handful or less, insurgents infiltrating mainly into buildings, using them as firing platforms, to indiscriminately to fire rocket-propelled grenades and machine weapons into government or military installations, more to gain effect than to cause real damage,” he said.
The ISAF spokesman praised the increased capability of the Afghan-led forces, mostly police with support from the army, that battled and defeated the insurgents. NATO provided air support in response to requests from the Afghans.
The goal of the small insurgent attacks, Jacobson says, was not to militarily defeat the Afghan forces, but to shake people's confidence and instill fear. The violence did show that the Taliban and their allies are still a determined enemy.
Shukria Barakzai, a member of the Afghan parliament's defense committee, says the ability of the Taliban to infiltrate the heart of the capital raises real concerns about the security challenge facing government forces as U.S. and NATO forces draw down. The majority of international combat troops are scheduled to leave by the end of 2014.
“Mentally you can put yourself in the position of Afghan people, who for 18 hours, non-stop fighting and war," said Barakzai. "It's unbelievable. It's really unbelievable.”
On Sunday, a Taliban spokesperson claimed responsibility for the multiple assaults on embassies, government buildings and NATO bases, saying the operation had been planned for two months to show the insurgency's power after NATO commanders called the Taliban weak.
It was the most widespread attack in the Afghan capital since an assault on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in September. That operation was blamed on the Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based insurgent group allied with the Taliban.
Afghan Interior Minister General Bismillah Mohammadi says the arrest and interrogation of a militant armed with explosives in Jalalabad indicates the Haqqini network may also be behind the latest attacks.
He says the man confessed that he came from outside of the Afghan border, and was trained and equipped there by elements of the Haqqani network.
The attacks come at a time of increased tension between international and Afghan forces over incidents including the burning of Qurans at a U.S. base and a deadly attack by a U.S. soldier that killed 17 Afghan villagers.
NATO and U.S. leaders say despite some setbacks, plans to shift international forces from a combat to support role are moving forward, and the capable response by Afghan forces to the latest attacks is a sign of progress.