Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Taliban launches major terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Afghan security forces respond to the attack> Reuters. 

The Taliban have launched a major attack on the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul, which has killed at least 28 people and wounded hundreds more. Reuters. A suicide bomber detonated a car bomb near the headquarters of the National Directorate of Security (NDS). An attacker also attempted to assault through the hole made by the car bomb, but was killed by security forces there. The Taliban have taken credit for this attack and have claimed that their fighters actually engaged in a gun battle after the bombing took place, though it seems they have exaggerated their success. The attack marks the worst terrorist attack in Kabul since 2011, where 60 people died in a mosque bombing. The Taliban has been making major gains in the country ever since US and allied troops withdrew most of their combat forces, leaving the Afghani government to fight the Taliban almost alone. The Taliban is now considered to be the strongest it has been since US involvement in the war began in 2001.

My Comment:
More bad news out of Afghanistan. The attack itself was a major blow to the Afghan government. The agency which was hit, the NDS, was responsible for security for VIP's and politicians. Though it's not at all clear how many of the people that were killed or injured actually worked for the NDS, the loss of even a few of their troops is a tough pill to swallow. It's also a major psychological blow for the people of Kabul and the various government officials stationed there. 

Attacking the NDS also sends a clear message to the politicians in Afghanistan. Even the people that protect you aren't safe from the Taliban. If the Taliban can walk into the capital city of Afghanistan, and target the government agency charged with keeping their government safe, then they can hit anyone at any time. This attack could even be an attempt to disrupt their operations so assassinations are easier to pull off. Every politician and government worker in Afghanistan that isn't aligned with the Taliban will be thinking of this attack for quite some time.  

It amazes me that the Taliban are able to get into Kabul and attack like this so easily. There had to be guards and other security forces in the area. Did none of them discover this attack force before it attacked? You would think that the area around the presidential palace, which is only a few hundred feet from the NDS compound, would be very tight, but somehow the Taliban slipped through.

I think there are two options as to how they were able to pull this attack off. The first is that security around the presidential palace isn't tight at all, and that the government and President Ashraf Ghani is at risk of being attacked. Indeed, it almost seems like if the Taliban had made Ghani the target, they might have gotten him. If the Taliban is able to drive right up to the gate of the NDS compound without being caught or shot, why can't they hit the presidential palace instead? 

The second option is even more disturbing. It is very possible that there are turncoats that helped out the Taliban. I am guessing that there had to be some kind of checkpoints around this area of Kabul. The fact that a car bomber and a few gunmen were able to get through tells me that either the guards were  either completely incompetent and missed them or that they let them through on purpose. Perhaps they were bribed or they are true believers that want to help the Taliban and just let the fighters attack. When your explanations for a terrorist attacks are either incompetence or corruption then you know Afghanistan is in trouble. 

And it is clear that Afghanistan is in major trouble. This isn't the first time that the Taliban has been able to launch attacks near the presidential palace. Ad the Taliban really are much stronger now then they have been in years. Just a little while ago they were able to briefly take the city of Kunduz. Though they were pushed back out, losing a major city like that even for a brief time shows me that the Afghan security forces aren't able to stand on their own. 

But they have no choice but to do so. I just can't see NATO sending troops back into Afghanistan. 9/11 was a long time ago and the threat of al-Qaeda isn't nearly as bad in Afghanistan as it once was. There isn't any appetite in the United States to send major fighting forces back into Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, especially when the major threat is in countries where ISIS is active. ISIS does have some forces in Afghanistan but not enough to justify major US force in the country. 

I have mentioned this before, but you would think that during an election year the Afghanistan problem would get more coverage. I have watched almost all of the GOP debates and many of the Democratic ones and I only recall seeing Afghanistan talked about once. It was Bernie Sanders in one of the Democratic ones and he completely wiffed on the question. Nobody, Democrat, Republican or third party is talking about Afghanistan. 

And that is very annoying to me. I don't know about anyone else but it seems to me that Afghanistan is going to fall right back into control of the Taliban. Considering the thousands soldiers killed or wounded in the country and the billions of dollars we have spent fighting there during the 14 years we have been involved in the war that is a huge failure. And it's one that nobody is even trying to fix. I don't think sending in thousands of troops back to Afghanistan is the answer, but nobody else is even trying to think of a solution to the Afghanistan problem.

What is clear to me is that the Afghan security forces just can't handle it on their own. They are losing territory and taking unsustainable casualties. They have US air support and plenty of US supplied weapons, but they just can't translate that into success on the battlefield. What they need is a strong powerful army to take the fight to the Taliban and better leadership to ensure that things like this don't happen anymore. Developing an army takes a long time, and I don't know if the Afghans are going to succeed before time runs out... 

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