Insurgents attack Kabul capitalism

by Julia Mahlejd on 1/18/2010 · 10 comments

When you live in Kabul, sometimes the insurgent attacks that happen in the city really emotionally affect you. Sometimes they really don’t.

Today’s complex attack on the Ministry of Justice, presidential palace and Serena Hotel is one of the former. Although I personally do not (yet) know any of the dead or injured, the pall of smoke rising above my house fills my stomach with dread and sadness.

The market area where the attacks occurred is one of Kabul’s busiest. Locals and provincial merchants eke out a living selling their wares along the polluted Kabul River. It is a burgeoning capitalism – stalls of mosque loudspeakers beside second hand mobile phones beside cages of songbirds and chickens. The counterpoint to this type of organic commerce is the other, elitist kind. The nearby gaudy multi-storey modern shopping centre that is still smouldering as I write these words was opened only a few weeks ago – a shining paean to opportunism amidst the grime of poverty. Bustling every day, the neighbourhood is a small sign of progress for the country. It represents something we all share – the desire to make our daily lives even a little bit better, to provide a little more for our families.

When insurgents attack civilian installations like that they are attacking these universal values and showing again they are out of touch with the Afghan people. Unfortunately it will probably not be perceived this way. That is why terror works.

Eleven months ago insurgents performed a similar complex attack in exactly the same vicinity, also on the Ministry of Justice. The ANP response was swift and professional – and understated. I hope that when the stories of today are sorted out it transpires that the ANP have again acted heroically. It will be good to be reminded that the progress of the ANSF is one of the great, unsung successes of the international community’s engagement in Afghanistan.

We must also not forget when we mourn the losses of the western troops that by far the biggest casualties are in the ANSF and that every day these ordinary Afghans are at the frontline of counter-insurgency. Let’s for once not focus on the corruption, the budgetary shortfalls, the mentoring inadequacies and instead reflect on the glass-half-full – it’s amazing what the ANSF has achieved despite these problems.


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– author of 10 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Julia has lived and worked in Afghanistan since 2008.

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{ 10 comments }

omar January 18, 2010 at 7:48 pm

cross posting from swj..
1. The “Mumbai style attack” is here to stay. Any city in the world can be hit by 10 or 20 suicidal attackers and hours or days of chaos will ensue.
2. On the other hand, this is not the first mumbai style attack in afghanistan and ALL of them have been cleared within hours, not days. Security forces also learn (and are probably more competent in Afghanistan than they are in India).
3. These attackers were NOT as ruthless as the Mumbai attackers. Shopkeepers were apparently told to get out. This probably means that Afghans were doing the attacking, not Lashkar e Tayaba types, and afghan taliban continue to be wary of civilian casualties. This is not likely to be the case in future attacks in India or other “infidel” countries, where attackers can and will kill anyone they see.
4. Ultimately, there is no defence against these attacks in most of Eurasia except by getting the planners and organizers to stop (either by killing them or by pressurizing them in some other way or buying them off or accepting their demands). IF an organization like Lashkar wants to carry out an attack in India or Russia, its only a matter of time. Given the incompetence and general corruption rampant in most states, an opening will be found. Even a country like China can be hit provided the militants WANT to do it badly enough.
“The future’s so bright, got to wear shades….”

AJK January 18, 2010 at 9:40 pm

I agree with you, generally, but I think that your 2 + 3 fly against the idea of “Mumbai-style attack”. The insurgent-incited violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan is very different, I would say, from a Mumbai-style attack. Because Mumbai is majority Hindu, because the attack was ruthless and over a period of days, and because Mumbai is a huge, international, city, that attack was very different in scope, planning, and intent.

There hasn’t been another Mumbai-style attack (unless I’m missing something obvious here) since Mumbai. I don’t really know why not, other than every other non-Muslim international capital is really far from where the pointy-part of the insurgency operates.

Toryalay Shirzay January 18, 2010 at 9:23 pm

@Julia, some more explanation is needed in an otherwise excellent post:”Unfortunately in will probably not be perceived that way. That is why terror works” This is a critical part of your post and it begs for a good explanation.
You will have noticed that the majority of Afghans are oppressed people and that the elites constitute no more than 10% of the population,that is to be a little generous.Here is a little inside info :those oppressed majority are also abused and the majority of these are also molested when they were growing up but the Afghans hide this truth about themselves and so outsiders never get to see these hidden scars .Thus these abused Afghans harbor great pain and anguish and feel a sort of relief when someone blows up those elites or their dwellings.Islamic customs,habits and practices are at the root of these evils in Afghanistan since the little boys are abused and molested in the mosques and by those who have means and by the islamic practice of strict separation of men from women.Thus the violence in Afghanistan has its deep roots in the fascist islamic beliefs and practices and the violence of the evil islamic fascists will continue as long as they are not thoroughly defeated!!

anan January 18, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Julia, nicely written, especially about the ANSF. Could you share any thoughts about the ANSF by type and location? How do the Afghans you interact with perceive the ANA, ANP and NDS?

Many non Afghans (such as Tariq Ali) believe that large numbers of Afghans support violent attacks against the ANA. This is one reason why so many non Afghans support the Taliban against the ISAF/ANSF/GIRoA.

Dafydd January 19, 2010 at 11:09 am

It is good to look positively on the ANSF. This was surely a very difficult job, and so far as I can tell there were no civiliam casualties caused by the ANSF. That seems like a job well done.

Report on the attack is here (IWPR).

Seems like there may have been some forewarning.

At the end of the day there is a massive advantage in being an insurgent, less than 20 guys can bring a city to a standstill for half a day and engage literally hundreds of ANSF. Like the IRA used to taunt British interrogators “We have to get lucky only once. You have to get lucky EVERY time”.

If they can keep support of 5% of the population and are prepared to die, they are pretty much undefeatable.

omar January 19, 2010 at 3:08 pm

It is my anecdotal experience that many educated Muslims have never heard that Afghans may actually support the ISAF mission. The mainstream media usually presents these attacks as setbacks and signs that things are not going well in Afghanistan, with very little about the improved work of the Afghan security forces. The only other source for educated Muslims is likely tobe emailed articles full of conspiracy theories from Eric Margolis and company (and of course, the extremist Christian or Zionist blogs and FOX news are not going to be believed no matter what they say..with good reason).
Simply telling people that there is another view leads to surprising changes in opinion..not instantly, but next time you talk to the same person.

omar January 19, 2010 at 3:08 pm

It is my anecdotal experience that many educated Muslims have never heard that Afghans may actually support the ISAF mission. The mainstream media usually presents these attacks as setbacks and signs that things are not going well in Afghanistan, with very little about the improved work of the Afghan security forces. The only other source for educated Muslims is likely tobe emailed articles full of conspiracy theories from Eric Margolis and company (and of course, the extremist Christian or Zionist blogs and FOX news are not going to be believed no matter what they say..with good reason).
Simply telling people that there is another view leads to surprising changes in opinion..not instantly, but next time you talk to the same person.

anan January 19, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Omar, many Afghans don’t like ISAF but admire, respect and even love the ANA. This can be seen in many public opinion polls. My question, is why are the ANA so much less popular and respected outside Afghanistan compared to inside Afghanistan. Why can’t non Afghans oppose ISAF and support the ANA the way many Afghans do?

Toryalay Shirzay January 21, 2010 at 12:22 am

Here is the picture from the Afghan side: it is true the Afghans like the ANA.However they hate the nasty,corrupt ANP.Most Afghans are grateful for ISAF for this reason: the Afghans will butcher each other in the absence of ISAF.You can be absolutely certain that if ISAF left Afghanistan today,the Afghans will intensify butchering each other until the two legged islamic dogs with bone crushing fangs take over and then it gets more interesting.These two legged afghan islamic dogs will pack up with their Arab islamic dogs to take more territories in the name of mohamad. In such a case,you can see why the whole world would then go to the dogs,the two legged islamic variety that is.

Idi January 22, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Julia, babe, time to leave. You are gonna miss that nice little NGO salary and fancy digs and Afghan Kunee’s like Toryalay serving you tea. Make sure you leave an ample supply of $$’s behind so that the good work can be continued. If you are really sweet you can give your most favoured servant Tory a green card. On returning please drop him off at a nice catholic church where he can get rogered by a padre now that the mullah’s have been through with him. Torya, bro, you don’t have to turn your back on your people or your religion so you can get to smell some spin kus. It is very cheap. A nice meal and a glass of wine is all it takes….

Idi

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