Why the Kabul Embassy Attack Is Really A Disaster

by Joshua Foust on 9/13/2011 · 26 comments

Three-point-five years ago, something very bad happened at the Serena Hotel in Kabul:

We sat down, tea in hand and then it began. All of sudden BOOM! A suicide bomber dressed as police had walked into the security X-ray booth with a vest of explosives attached on his chest and blew himself up killing half of the guards in the booth.The windows began shaking, I quickly think hey that was a bomb but the Serena Glass is thick so we don’t know if its close or far. Usually a bomb like that I would estimate it was 5 blocks away then all of a sudden BOOM again and then rapid gunfire. The guards killed 1 attacker and but two more get inside the main lobby of the Serena.

He continues, telling a horrifying story of a brazen, and before then unprecedented, attack by insurgents against a symbol of the Western presence in Afghanistan: a posh, 5-star hotel unavailable to most Afghans. In a feat of prescience, Barnett Rubin predicted:

Such operations will continue. Even if the vast majority do not succeed, the result will be a mix of the following:

1. Many if not most of the civilian foreign expatriates currently involved in the delivery of aid or other activities in Afghanistan will leave.
2. Most of the rest will be concentrated into a Forbidden City like the Green Zone in Baghdad. The U.S. Embassy is already such a compound, and the area around it in Wazir Akbar Khan is already so fortified that it might not take much more to turn that and the adjacent areas of Shahr-i Naw (palace, main ministries, UN offices, embassies) into such a zone.

Rubin was wrong about the first point but very right about the second. I suggested at the time that “the U.S., and the international community, seems to be critically misunderstanding the very nature of conflict and reconstruction in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas. And that is why things are sliding downhill by the week.”

As the last three years have unfolded, the U.S. embassy has become even more walled off, even more separate, from the rest of Afghanistan. It had sunk into a kind of stupor: immune from the travails of the city where it lived, yet intimately tied to the reasons why Kabul was facing such problems.

It’s what makes today’s attack (warning: NYT) on the U.S. embassy in Kabul so dramatic, and so very symbolic. Three years ago, an attack on the embassy was unthinkable: it was surrounded by a “ring of steel“—dozens of guards, roadblocks, checkpoints, barricades, and HESCOs—such that a direct assault on it was impossible. Unimaginable, even.

That’s no longer the case. This attack on the embassy is the latest in a series of attacks by insurgents inside Kabul. Last month it was a large, multi-pronged attack on Karte Parwan, a wealthy part of town where Vice President Fahimi lives. This summer was marked by a string of brazen suicide attacks across the country, including one that killed President Hamid Karzai’s half brother, Ahmed Wali. The month ended with a complex, sustained assault on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. In April Kabul was rocked with suicide attacks on the Afghan Army and on an ISAF base. In February there was another suicide bomb attack at another hotel in Kabul, killing two. And in January of this year, a brazen suicide assault on an upscale supermarket in Kabul supposedly targeted a Blackwater executive, though the attackers missed their target.

As 2011 has ground on, the attacks in Kabul have become more intense, lasted longer, demonstrated better intelligence and tactics on the part of the insurgency, and struck ever more supposedly-secure targets. It is part of a years-old trend in the Taliban insurgency: by engaging in high-profile attacks on targets we assume to be safe, they are engaging in propaganda of the deed, of using their assaults to send a very deliberate message to the Afghan people: you are not safe, you are not secure, and the West cannot protect you. This has gone on for years now. It is not a secret.

The idea of fighting the war as a battle for the people used to be the hallmark of the COIN gurus advising the DOD on how to fight the war. In fact, a CNAS paper I consulted on and largely agree with—the 2009 paper called “Triage” that was the blueprint for General Stanley McChrystal’s tenure as ISAF commander in 2009-2010—mentioned the importance of protecting the population to instill confidence in our victory at least seven times. It said that a growing number of attacks on Afghan civilians, even if there are few or ineffective attacks on ISAF, would indicate mission failure. And I think recent history has shown that to be absolutely true, and very perceptive.

So it was with tremendous disappointment I read Triage co-author Andrew Exum try to explain away today’s embassy attack in Foreign Policy:

Tuesday, Sept. 13′s dramatic attack on the U.S. Embassy and NATO compounds in Kabul is sure to garner many headlines and will sow doubts about the ability of the Afghan national security forces — which have responsibility for Kabul and its environs — to manage their country’s security after U.S. and allied troops carry out their planned withdrawal between now and 2014.

Those doubts are already leaping to the surface. “The Kabul attack,” claims a headline in the Guardian, “shows the insurgency is as potent as ever” — to take just one example. But we should be careful not to draw too many conclusions just yet about what the attack does or does not mean.

While Exum goes on to caution—properly, I might add—about drawing too many conclusions about the specific insurgents who carried out this attack, I’m struggling to see this as anything other than sophistry. Starting with Exum’s own writing, which includes the Triage paper but also volumes on his blog about how anecdotes drawn from his tours of southern Afghanistan give him hope for the future, it’s a sharp break from his usual modus operandi of analyzing the war.

But the specifics of what he says—and please, read the whole thing so you can judge for yourself if I’m presenting his argument fairly—don’t really make much sense either. For example, the quote he excerpted from the Guardian did not actually say this attack on the embassy shows the Afghan forces are incapable of securing the city—it said the insurgents remain “as potent as ever,” which my review of 2011′s attacks would substantiate as accurate. It is a strawman meant to downplay the significance of today’s attack.

Exum asks, “after several years of calm in Kabul, does Tuesday’s attack signal a degradation of the Afghan intelligence networks that have thwarted earlier attacks on the capital?” This simply doesn’t make sense. Only by ignoring the constant string of attacks in Kabul, large-scale and small, can you describe the city as “calm” (certainly its residents—remember, those Afghans at the center of population-gravity COIN says we must influence?—would not describe the last three years as “calm”). Just three weeks after a large attack in Kabul, and days before this one, Ambassador Crocker tried to say Kabul’s biggest problem was “traffic.” Exum, like the good ambassador, can only view Kabul this way if they are completely disconnected from the daily experience real Afghans have with the war, and with the insurgents continuing to terrorize the city.

But what really gets me about Exum’s attempt to whitewash today’s attack into insignificance is how breezily he contradicts his own argument. In his final paragraph, Exum writes, “”If the Afghan security forces and intelligence services can safeguard their own capital city — which local police officials have previously boasted is guarded by a ‘ring of steel’ — that is reason for encouragement. If they cannot, that is reason for despair.”

The Afghan security forces have been shown, repeatedly, and not just this year but every year at least back to 2008, that they cannot safeguard their own capital city. Repeatedly, and at great loss of life. Again, and again. According to Exum’s own logic, this should be reason for despair. But he implicitly argues against despair.

Let’s ignore history, even recent history. Let’s only look at this year alone, at 2011. There have been at least half a dozen tactically complex, deadly attacks on Kabul targeting the civilian and government institutions of the city and country. It is difficult for me to understand how one can look at that and claim this latest attack not only does not give us grounds to draw conclusions about the war, but that we should suddenly, after years of breezy endorsements of success, stop trying to draw lessons from current events.

There is no way around: while today’s embassy attack is certainly not of a different nature from previous complex attacks in Kabul, its scale, length, and audacity—whatever the actual damage it caused—makes it significant. And it is yet another data point in the war’s downward spiral, of both ISAF’s and the Afghan security forces’ inability to counter an insurgency hellbent on disrupting the capital. To try to spin this any other way is just dishonest pandering.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1849 posts on Registan.net.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 26 comments }

TJM September 13, 2011 at 10:24 pm

I’m not sure about the claim of greater tactical complexity. I’m also not sure if it even matters, but you raised it so I’ll throw in my two cents on it.

My understanding of the recent attacks (Kabul attacks in 2011) is that each was a small group of fighters. Each fighter was well-equipped with weapons and explosives. Each was to infiltrate an area, fight to the death, and cause whatever destruction they could.

I plead ignorance here – maybe there is more information that I’m not aware of. But, if the info above is accurate and halfway complete, then none of these attacks are “tactically complex.” Tactical complexity, as most would understand it, would be a demonstration of a group’s ability to synchronize their actions in execution of a collective task, in such a fashion that they are able to cause significantly greater damage as a coordinated team than they could as individuals acting either redundantly or haphazardly.

It may be that some individuals have greater individual competency – such as knowledge of how to bypass various obstacles or control points undetected – that makes each individual more useful than others. But that is far different than synchronizing actions of a unit engaged in a collective task. It is usually a preliminary step.

Sending a bunch of fighters to one location requires little more than simple preparations that all factions have demonstrated since 2001 – recruit and train individuals knowledgeable in the use of weapons and basic soldiering skills, identify the targets and a time to hit them, obtain weapons in a country swimming in weapons, prepare your press releases, communicate the simple plan to the fighters, brew some chai, and wait for the coverage to air on your TV.

What I think is significant about this attack – if anything – is merely the target selection. For some reason, at this moment, our adversaries perceive importance in striking targets for their propaganda value rather than to degrade the GIRoA’s military, governance, or policing capabilities. Given that this was an attack done for propaganda value, I think it is also significant that they struck the US Embassy. They struck the outsider; the invader; not the Afghan “puppet” regime.

That’s the real issue, in my view. This is not some evolution in tactical capability. This is a propaganda battle in a larger propaganda war.

Joshua Foust September 13, 2011 at 10:27 pm

You make a fair point, but the attackers today also planted several bombs elsewhere in the city to split and distract the security responders at the embassy. Given how synchronized they were, and that they dug themselves in so tight the police are still trying to root them out, I think that qualifies as tactical complexity.

These sorts of attacks also require months of planning and very good targetting intelligence. Don’t forget that too.

Jim September 14, 2011 at 10:45 am

Is there months of planning and very good targeting intelligence? I haven’t read anything that indicates that, but I may have missed something. Source?

Don Bacon September 14, 2011 at 12:35 pm

You don’t get militants with RPG’s through a ‘ring of steel’ on a whim. So what is required is, to add to what Foust said, not only planning and intelligence but also some influence with the ring-of-steelers — the Afghan government forces. That takes some time. You can’t go up to a cop and say “Here’s fifty thousand Afghani, let me through with my weapons.”

Jim September 14, 2011 at 1:20 pm

You don’t? Because it’s happened before. Wasn’t this attack:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Hrf5QyD7QE

Simple oversight, waving the wrong people through? I think Exum’s entire point is that at the outset we had no idea about the complexity of the attack. Whatever truth is born out as more information comes out, that doesn’t change the fact that shooting from the hip as the action is ongoing, without full information, is precisely the kind of thing that Foust would (rightly) crucify others for doing.

Bird Dog September 25, 2011 at 12:06 pm

So the real difference is that the Kabul embassy attack was more coordinated? Seems like you had it right earlier in your piece: this was propaganda of the deed, not unlike the spectacular al Qaeda bombings we see in Baghdad from time to time.

Seth September 13, 2011 at 11:18 pm

I have a brother who’s a contractor in Kabul, and my dad and I skyped with him about the attack this morning, after the brunt of it. His team witnessed and partially responded to it, though they were out of range for accuracy. He really had a lot to say about the lack of exploding RPGs (apparently they forgot to properly arm them, thank god) and the selection of the ambush location– that building-in-progress has been the grumblings of many a contractor. While I don’t see this as the Tet Offensive of the Afghan war, it doesn’t help since it’s another rough story about the war as well as very complex to unravel and understand.

AG September 14, 2011 at 12:16 am

“The Afghan security forces have been shown, repeatedly, and not just this year but every year at least back to 2008, that they cannot safeguard their own capital city. ” — so how do we judge this? What is the threshold that determines if they can ‘safeguard’ the city?

The security apparatus in Kabul usually picks up on chatter for attacks like this one (at least they did for the attack on the shopping mall last year). So there is a level of competence there but the usual stasis, bribes and so on and so forth get in the way.

I also suggest we start flogging bloggers/academics/pundits when they get things wrong. This finger to the wind, predictions by the bushel attitude also needs some accounting.

anan September 14, 2011 at 3:10 pm

The NDS is very good at picking up foreigners and Afghans and questioning them to check if they are Pakistani spies.

If you are a foreigner, they will probably be nicer and won’t smack you around as much. For Afghans picked up . . . it isn’t as nice. They frequently beat up even anti Taliban Afghan civilians because they incorrectly think they might be Taliban/Pakistan sympathizers.

The NDS “do control” the streets of Kabul.

gregorylent September 14, 2011 at 5:42 am

dumb to be there at all, and therefor not worth paying attention to …

M Shannon September 14, 2011 at 10:05 am

Whenever any GOA or NATO official uses the term “Ring of Steel” you can be sure that any jihadi who puts even the smallest amount of thought into it will be able to get inside.

I expect the response to this latest attack will be more concrete, a wider perimeter that closes down more streets and increased restrictions on US gov travel. I also expect NATO officials to say foolish things about how much better things are that prove they are clueless or liars. Mission accomplished.

F September 14, 2011 at 10:45 am

We need a new vocabulary. “Ring of steel” made some marginal sense when applied to combat team attacks, where assault and intimate support tanks isolated the objective while the infantry did their grenades-and-bayonets bit (and really a better term would have been ‘arc of steel’). The term makes no sense at all when applied to static urban defences built from gravel, concrete and kevlar. That’s just a ring of inconvenience.

For all the money spent on barriers we might as well just bury all the key installations in blast-proof underground shelters.

M Shannon September 14, 2011 at 12:08 pm

In any event NATO never tried to secure Kabul. The checkpoints on the major roads have been manned by NDS and ANP for years. The idea that ISAF secures any major city is a delusion. It’s troop intense. hot, boring and exposes NATO members to suicide car bombs and sniping.

WRT Kabul you could always walk around ANSF check points. Travel by bus with women aboard and avoid a search. Or pay off the cops. Or have some of your guys join the ANSF. Or travel at high noon during Ramazon and get waived through. Or hide your contraband under a pile of vegetables or scrap iron. It’s not rocket science.

anan September 14, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Bingo. This is precisely why the attacks in Kabul are hardly the big deal Joshua implies.

Steve Magribi September 14, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Just back home from Wazir Khan…Here is the Good Bad and the Ugly on this theme..

A. We know that the Islamic Insurgent forces have easily 500-1000 suicide commandos on their payroll, in their indoctrination centers, and in degrees ready to launch attacks. This number may actually be on the low side.

B. This year while overt military standard attacks have gone down largely due to increased and better targetted ISAF operations, Suicide attacks have gone up.

C. Since there are so many suicide attackers in the pipeline this is a ready made option to increase combat and visibility during lulls of other significant military activity.

D. Operational tempo varies, and planning time for these attacks varies also. There was a significant counter suicide cell intelligence success late last year and it did slow down the influx of teams into the city during the last year. Kabul was very quiet in 2010 for the most part. Current Operational pace for these attacks is about once a month now. By increasing resources they could easily increase to two or more operations per month if this was deemed desirable by the Insurgent leadership.

E. Given the right amount of planning any target can be hit by these Commando missions, there is no perfect defense. The successes late last year were significant deterrents but there is a new pipeline into the city now..ie. new and improved cell structure and perhaps more resources dedicated to launching these missions.

F. Joshua F. is correct, these types of attacks do take complex recon(especially this week’s attack on top of the heart of the ISAF command and the Embassy area), opportunistic leadership, and daring. The Insurgents demonstrate continued resolve by these operations. The attack yesterday in the heart of the ISAF/Embassy HQ zone was indeed notable.

G. Exum is also correct(painful to say…CNAS a key cheerleader in this failure) when he says that these attacks as of yet do not demonstrate great strength. They all (so far) basically follow the same script; small teams, limited objectives, government targets, suicide bomber insertion. The attack on the Serena long ago and yesterday’s attack follow the same basic story line.

H. The risk is not in these attacks per se. The risk is that these same planners realize that they could do more with these attacks by making them longer in duration, seizing and holding larger areas of the city and committing larger forces to this type of action in the future. If they could successfully do such attacks with a longer duration the facade of the Ring of Iron will be broken forever and any illusion of “safe Kabul” would be finished .

I. The Soviets did a much better job of securing Kabul. There were in those days 4 rings of steel and even this did not preclude any attacks in the City. ISAF’s ring of steel is very very weak and allows (if the Insurgents wish) a greater degree of inflitration than was the case during the Soviet War and the First Jihad.

K. When you combine the large number of potential suicide units available with a rather weak security barrier, it is easy to see that security in Kabul may be getting much worse rather than better. This is not how it is supposed to be going (we have been in country for ten years now). Each of the attacks is a major failure of ISAF, and no matter how Exum, CNAS, Crocker and the Gang of Zombies try to cover it up, there is indeed a problem in Kabul. How major a problem is really up to the Insurgents and not ISAF at this point. That is the scary part, that no one wants to face up to at this point in the conflict.

anan September 14, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Agree with everything you wrote Steve except the last part.

Kabul is the responsibility of Karzai, the NDS and the ANP. Any security lapses are their fault. It isn’t ISAF’s job to provide security to Kabul. Nor should it be. You can blame Kabul ANSF advisors to a small degree. But it makes little sense to blame ISAF for Kabul in 2011.

AG September 14, 2011 at 11:42 pm

The Soviets (and Khad) went tit-for-tat with Pakistan: for every crater in Kabul there would be one at least as deep in Pakistan. That forced Pakistan to keep things on a leash. Now its a mess–including the point scoring in the blogosphere.

anan September 14, 2011 at 3:07 pm

The attacks in Kabul are not a disaster. The ANSF are responsible for security in Kabul. Some attacks will get through. The more that get through the more the Kabul ANSF and Kabul citizens will hate the Taliban and . . . might as well admit the obvious . . . hate another country. It is already difficult to join the ANA if you are a minority [from the North, Center and West especially] and it will continue to become even more difficult. [As Obama tries to limit the budget, weapons, size and number of training seats of the ANSF . . . and tells India and Russia to stay away from the ANSF.]

By contrast in large parts of the east, the Taliban are gaining PR points and increasing the number of Afghans who tolerate or support them. And there suicide attacks like this benefit the Taliban more.

In Kabul the primary reason locals hate ISAF, UN [basically all foreigners] is because locals hate the Taliban and Pakistan and think the US, NATO, UN, ISAF, foreigners back the Taliban and Pakistan against them. The ANA [ANA Commandos in particular] is popular in Kabul. Some of the anti Taliban politicians are also relatively popular. [What some derogatorily call neo Northern Alliance.]

In places the Taliban are more popular and more legitimate [and where GIRoA and ANSF are less popular] the reasons locals hate foreigners is different.

Kabul won’t fall to the Taliban. The NDS/ANA/MoI, Northern Alliance and Turkey/India/Russia/Iran/NATO will see to that. The NDS eats Taliban for lunch in Kabul. [Unfortunately they mistreat many locals in their zeal to catch and punish every last Pakistani sympathizer or Taliban collaborator.] What the NDS is doing isn’t great for the Kabul economy or Kabul residents . . . but that is life.

Steve Magribi, I have learned a lot from you over the years and heard good things about you as well. Would you be willing to touch base offline?

Steve C September 14, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Anan,

As I was watching the tv pictures of the ANSF response to the attacks I was struck by the incredibly poor weapon handling being displayed. I mean, really, automatic fire from the hip, in the general direction of a skeletal building?

On scene reports I’ve read and heard depict the residents of Kabul trying to hunker down beneath whatever hard cover was available to them because of stray RPG rounds flying around.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the civilian casualties resulting from this attack were being caused by poorly trained and disciplined government troops. I wouldn’t be surprised, either, if that was the talk of the town today.

M Shannon September 14, 2011 at 4:09 pm

The attacks are a big deal. They are part of a cumulative trend pointing to the fruitlessness of our plan to have the ANSF take over. They point to the poor job ISAF has done in training and mentoring the ANSF and the poor level of ANSF recruiting, training and motivation.

As I said above getting into Kabul is not hard. Stashing weapons in a high rise (the existence of which should raise serious questions) overlooking the US Embassy and ISAF HQ however should be impossible without ANSF help.

The only good thing to come out of this is that the insurgents skill level remains low. One shudders to think what damage a dozen or so highly trained infantrymen could do given the haphazard state of the ANSF and ISAF. The amazing thing about this and the Inter Continental Hotel attack is the low body counts not that the attacks were possible.

I can only conclude that as soon as the plan requires suicide vests the quality of the volunteers for the operation drops. The insurgents would have done more physical damage to ANSF by having it’s 11 attackers each seek out ANSF members in the bazaar, shoot them with a pistol and run away. Presumably they know this so continue to use suicide vest attackers for their psychological value.

Steve C September 14, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Whether intentionally or not (and it’s small-minded and dangerous to assume the latter) this seems to be a very sophisticated messaging campaign being carried out by Taleban aimed at different audiences and tailored to what they understand of each.

The act of being able to penetrate the capital and utilize direct-fire, hands-on, weapons tells the domestic populations of the ISAF contributing nations that after a decade in Afghanistan their politicians, diplomats and soldiers are no closer to success than they were five years ago. Moreover, it creates an atmosphere of distrust in said politicians, diplomats and soldiers who are passing them such gems as Ambassador Crocker’s traffic comment.

The same audience – already close to the end of their tether with our Afghan partners – recognize that even the security forces we claim to have successfully trained and mentored are, at best, unreliable.

That the attacks are primarily aimed at foreign forces, their political associates and their Afghan partners further erodes any remaining sense of the legitimacy of the whole Afghan endeavor in the eyes of the people who are paying for it.

That no Afghan civilians were specifically targeted (as far as I’m aware) informes the citizens of Kabul that the fight is not with them but with the foreigners and their Afghan enablers. Indeed, for anyone watching closely, it would seem that while the infiltrators were focusing on what they regard as legitimate targets, those who were supposed to protect the civilians were chucking stuff around with little regard for where it fell or who it hit.

M Shannon may be right in saying the use of suicide vests is evidence of pragmatism but I’m not so sure. To be a Shahid in Afghanistan is no small thing: not for the martyr and not for the witness. This is powerful stuff, even for the sophisticated of Kabul.

Finally, this, the other production number attacks and the assassination campaign, deliver a haunting memo to those who assist in the occupation of Muslim land: You are not safe, even in your citadel.

Causing casualties is not what this is about. It’s about creating uncertainty and that has been achieved in abundance these past few months.

M Shannon September 14, 2011 at 7:24 pm

The attack in Zaranj on the PGs compound by nine suicide bombers last year is a good example of the very low quality recruit a suicide mission gets.

The attackers got lost, asked for directions from a cop and then instead of entering an open gate which lead to the provincial governor’s weekly meeting most tried to breach the walls by holding themselves against the concrete and detonating. The paint was scratched a bit. The remainder managed to eventually find their way in and shoot a women before being killed by an Afghan body guard.

It’s my opinion that the suicide bomber is completely expendable and hence not much of a threat once security forces are alerted. If their targets were civilians then they would be a serious menace- blowing up coffee shops and mosques etc.- but as long as they are attacking security forces they are generally less of a threat than a good sniper or RPG gunner would be.

Steve C September 14, 2011 at 8:03 pm

That’s one example – albeit a good one, for all its tragi-comedy. How many US/ISAF operations have gone incredibly bent?

But this latest and a number of other attacks that have preceded it have shown a very different side to the use of suicide attackers – one that has a long history. The use of these tactics is not about causing casualties (though there are times, such as the attack on the CIA crew when the man is effectively a sophisticated guided missile) but is a communique of devotion; a dedication.

I don’t know why this is such a big issue for westerners to accept. After all, didn’t Spielberg have an American suicide bomber in Independence Day? But that was before 9/11. Hmm, wonder if it was an inspiration?

I agree with you wholeheartedly that as a military tactic it is often ineffective and wasteful but that isn’t the main point of it.

Don Bacon September 15, 2011 at 11:35 am

“Cause for concern” — Panetta.

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 14, 2011 – Insurgent attacks like the one at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul yesterday indicate the Taliban are losing their ability to attack coalition forces on a broad scale, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today.

“Any time [insurgents] can make their way into Kabul or into the capital, that’s cause for concern,” the secretary said, “but at the same time, the force … responded quickly, casualties were limited, and we were able to basically defeat their effort.”

Steve C September 15, 2011 at 4:17 pm

To paraphrase the Provos: An attack in Kabul is worth ten in Helmand.

carl October 2, 2011 at 3:12 pm

I have several questions.

First, how much of the recon and planning involved in these attacks is done by and/or at the direction of the ISI? If that level wee significant, how would that affect the local political impact of the attacks?

I don’t quite understand how these types of attacks further a long term goal of taking the place over. They are fun for the attackers and probably garner them glory points in whatever organization they are in. But why would the ability to cause disruption, and it appears to me that the attacks in question are primarily disruptive, convince people that the disruptors should run the joint? I get that they want to show that NATO and the gov can’t protect them but why would that translate into wanting the sponsors of suicide bombers to take over city hall?

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