Kabul Under Attack

Monday’s brazen attack by the Taleban on Kabul was significant. It proved that the insurgents are determined to take the offensive to the very seat of power. Clearly, Afghanistan’s capital and the cradle of NATO in the region is far from safe, forget the rest of the country.

The latest incident, killing at least 12 people, follows a similar attack targeting a UN guesthouse in Kabul last year. Upon it, anyone would have thought that international forces would have given top priority to security in Kabul. Obviously, there is a serious lapse in the implementation of security measures, if not in strategy. That is why the armed-to-the-hilt group of insurgents manage to launch an extremely well organised attack in a high security zone. Not only that, the attackers managed to engage the security forces in a five-hour gun battle. A little late in the day perhaps, but security has been tightened in Kabul, especially at the entry points.

With additional US forces expected to be fully deployed by July, the year promises to be militarily intensive. Indeed, it is a make-or-break year for the coalition as military strategists aim for the extra push to wrest control from the Taleban and affiliated groups. US military commanders may have planned to focus on insurgent strongholds in the east and south but it seems that the Taleban have chosen to go for an attack on Kabul in a counteroffensive. Within the space of four months, the two attacks point to a psychological victory for the insurgents. Also, it makes the coalition and the Afghan government come across as ineffective guarantors of security, unable to defend the public even in Kabul — hardly a comforting thought for people hoping for stabilisation in security.

Despite the expected lull in activity in winter, the latest attack indicates a redrawing of strategy by the insurgents, so apparent in the ‘offensive initiative’ aimed at the jugular.

An interesting point being stressed by NATO commanders is that the operation was conducted entirely by Afghan security forces with allied forces providing only auxiliary help. The improved capacity of the national forces is thus good news. One of the main objectives of the coalition mandate was to bolster the capacity and training of both the Afghan army and police to a degree that responsibility of security would eventually be transferred to them. It is still in a nascent stage and requires a lot more to reach a modicum of self -reliance. With the conflict expected to get more intense on the battlefields, care must be taken to ensure security in at least the bigger cities. It is especially important to uphold the morale of the coalition forces and to retain the confidence of the people, fast eroding by the day.

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