KABUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai said today that a coordinated Taliban attack showed a ‘failure’ by Afghan intelligence and especially by NATO, as heavy street fighting between insurgents and security forces came to an end after 18 hours.
Battles which broke out at midday yesterday gripped the city’s central districts through the night, with large explosions and gunfire lighting up alleys and streets. “The fact terrorists were able to enter Kabul and other provinces was an intelligence failure for us and especially for NATO,” Karzai’s office said in a statement, which also strongly condemned the attack.
Though the death toll was relatively low considering the scale of the assault, it highlighted the ability of militants to strike at high-profile targets in the heart of the city even after more than 10 years of war.
Karzai echoed his Western backers by praising Afghan security forces, saying they had proven their ability to defend their country — a task which will increasingly fall to them as foreign armies reduce their troop numbers in Afghanistan.
His office said 36 insurgents were killed in the attacks which paralysed Kabul’s government district, and which targeted three other provinces in what the Taliban called the start of a spring offensive. One fighter was captured.
Eleven members of the Afghan security forces and four civilians were killed in the well-planned attacks in Kabul and the eastern Nangarhar, Logar and Paktia provinces, it said. “In only a short time we managed to cut short their devilish plans,” said Defence Ministry Chief of Operations Afzal Aman.
“They carried suicide vests, but managed to do nothing except be killed.” The attacks were also another election-year setback in Afghanistan for US President Barack Obama, who wants to present the campaign against the Taliban as a success before the departure of most foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.
Insurgents were killed attacking the Afghan parliament, and in a multi-storey building under construction that they had occupied to fire rocket-propelled grenades and rifles down on the heavily fortified diplomatic enclave.
More were killed in Kabul’s east, and while attacking a NATO base in the eastern city of Jalalabad. Fighting in the capital only ended with special forces assaults which were mounted as dawn broke.
Assisting physically for the first time in the attack, NATO helicopters launched strafing attacks on gunmen in the building site, which overlooked the NATO headquarters and several embassies, including the British and German missions. Elite Afghan soldiers scaled scaffolding to outflank the insurgents, who took up defensive positions on the upper floor of the half-built structure.
The assault, which began with attacks on embassies, a supermarket, a hotel and the parliament, was one of the most serious on the capital since US-backed Afghan forces removed the Taliban from power in 2001.
Rehearsed for two months: Taliban
KABUL: The insurgents who mounted weekend attacks in central Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan carefully rehearsed for months, even building small military-style models and pre-positioning weapons, a Taliban spokesman said on Monday. Zabihullah Mujahid provided Reuters with a rare insight into how the group plans strategic high-profile attacks designed to deal a psychological blow to United States-led NATO forces and their allies in the Afghan security forces. In the latest, a 30-member suicide squad was dispatched to aunch simultaneous assaults on parliament, NATO bases and estern embassies after two months of painstaking discussions on actics.