15 Apr 2012

Afghan attacks: a sign of things to come?

Afghan insurgents regard attacks on the capital in the same way as the Provisional IRA used to regard London bombings. The profile of prestige targets is obvious.

In recent months it has been largely the Haqqani movement attacking Kabuli embassies and hotels. This Pakistan- based movement is allied to – but not part of – the more traditional Taliban resistance.

What’s intriguing here is that this attack, claimed by Taliban is wide in terms of its breadth and scope.

A series of key embassies attacked with clear co-ordination and timing alongside the parliament and Star hotel. This means buildings across Kabul, miles apart, with a variety of weapons: you need a lot of people; sophisticated planning, communication and co-ordination and a reasonable degree of support in terms of safe houses, movement and supply.

In short, a major, concerted attack, without precedence in its scope in terms of the number of targets, timing and co-ordination. This would take months of planning and a great deal of skill in terms of training and a large number of committed forces for whom the likely outcome would be fatal.

Read more: British embassy ‘attacked’

Kabul has not seen anything on this scale. Nato (ISAF) will immediately play up how effective the response has been from Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police (ANP)¬†forces now responsible for the city’s safety. That may or may not be true in terms of response – but in terms of a permissive environment in Kabul for this to happen it’s a serious failure.

All around arterial roads into Kabul you will see armed ANP road checks with signs where red letters declare the “Ring of Steel” around Kabul.

The ring has been compromised today to a degree not seen. A failure of that ring is an ominous sign of things to come as Nato prepares to leave Afghanistan.

Serious implications for embassy staff sitting in their high-walled compound fortresses across Kabul. What kind of security for them when the firepower of the vast US garrison a few miles outside town at Bagram Airbase no longer exists in the same way.

What for them and ordinary Afghans when the resistance fighters come in future (and they will) and you can no longer call up a couple of Apaches for air support? Or heavily armed Nato ground forces?

That is the message those controlling these fighters wished to send today. In embassies around the world it will be received with foreboding and dismay – but understood.

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