13 Sep 2011

Kabul attacks continue into the night

As the Taliban attack high profile targets in Kabul, the UK’s former special representative to Afghanistan tells Channel 4 News it reveals the “folly of a military-only approach.”

At least four policeman, two civilians, and 4 Taliban fighters have been killed after suicide, gun, and rocket attacks at four different sites across Kabul.

One suicide bomber attacked in the diplomatic district of Kabul and two detonated their devices in the western area of the city.

The attacks on the diplomatic district targeted Nato’s headquarters, the US embassy, and the Afghan intelligence agency.

As night fell, rockets and gunfire continued to be fired near the heavily fortified area embassy area.

In western Kabul, just a few kilometres away, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at the entrance to a police building killing a policeman. A second suicide bomber in western Kabul wounded two people when he detonated his explosives near the Habibia high school.

Police also killed shot a potential fourth bomber dead near the airport.

Although the Taliban have launched high-profile attacks on multiple targets in the capital in the past, this is the first time they have organised simultaneous assaults on such separate parts of the city.

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, condemned the attacks and and said it could not not hamper the security transition from NATO to Afghan forces.

“The attacks cannot stop the process (transition) from taking place and cannot affect, but rather embolden our people’s determination in taking the responsibility for their country’s own affairs,” Karzai said in a statement.

Kabul is hit by at least six explosions in a central square near to western embassies and Nato's Isaf headquarters, in what appears to be a co-ordinated attack.

Taliban claim responsibility

In a statement given to Channel 4 News, the Afghan Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attacks. A spokesman said: “We were working for months to carry out such attacks and hit US embassy and Nato headquarters in the hearts of Kabul.

“With the help of our sincere mujahideen with Afghan army, police and government, our fighters managed to enter this high security zone and carry out such attacks.”

Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, who was the UK’s most senior diplomat in Afghanistan until he stepped down last year, told Channel 4 News that the brazen attacks reveal a failure in what he calls Nato’s military-driven counter-insurgency effort.

The former ambassador to Afghanistan in Kabul who was later made the special representative said: “It just shows the folly of the military only approach.

This is a political problem and it requires a political solution, it is fantasy to think the country can be stabilised by security forces and not with a more profound approach.”

Talks with the Taliban

Efforts for the US to talk directly to the Taliban were opposed by the US administration for years, but that policy has changed in the last year.

In June the Afghan President Hamid Karzai confirmed that the US are engaged in peace talks with the Taliban, after diplomats admitted the two sides had been engaged in preliminary talks for months.

But the US has never confirmed any contact, so little is known about the exchanges made.

Last week the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, in his annual Ramadan statement, did not flatly reject any hope of negotiations with the US.

It was the first time the reclusive leader had made such a concession but he went on to say the recent downing of helicopters and the geographic widening of attacks showed the Taliban was increasing in strength.

He also repeated his criticism of the coalition of nations fighting in Afghanistan for failing to leave any major legacy of infrastructure or development in the impoverished country, something he says the Taliban would reverse if they ruled the country

Days after the statement, on the eve of the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, a truck bomb blew up at a Nato base in central Afghanistan killing four Afghan civilians and wounding 77 US troops.

Read more: Mullah Omar statement ignites hopes for Taliban negotiation

Bloodiest year on record

A UN report in June said the number of Afghan civilians killed in conflict in Afghanistan was 1 462 “with insurgents responsible for 80 per-cent” of the killings.

It means 2011 is on course to be the bloodiest year yet during the decade old conflict.

In March the UN said 2010 had seen the most civilian deaths since the war began with 2,700 non-combatants killed.

The UN blamed the Taliban for 75% of all deaths in 2010, a claim the Taliban denied.