Kabul attacks: a complex and high profile “one per cent”?
By Tim Foxley
However infrequent attacks into Kabul are by the insurgents, they are increasingly complex, well-planned and aggressively implemented. High propaganda value from minimal expenditure of resources…
BBC, 15 April 2012: Militants are carrying out what appear to be co-ordinated attacks on the Afghan capital Kabul. Multiple blasts and gunfire have been heard in the central district, home to a number of international embassies. There have also been blasts near the parliament building in the west of the capital, where security forces are said to be fighting at least six militants.
Many analysts (and ISAF commanders, for that matter) make much of the fact that attacks into Kabul nowadays account for only one per cent of the insurgent-initiated violence within Afghanistan. A bit tricky to judge precisely what is happening at the moment, but I experienced the 13th September 2011 “complex” attack at first hand – ie from inside the ISAF HQ – and the situation in Kabul today seems to be very similar.
So I suspect we are seeing co-ordinated suicide bomber attacks and small groups of highly trained and motivated fighters digging themselves into some well-defended positions in order to draw the Afghan security forces onto them and create a long-drawn out battle. Targets will be a combination of high profile Afghan government and international positions or personalities. The longer it lasts, the more high profile the media value will become, but the Afghan quick reaction forces, still very closely mentored by ISAF, seemed to acquit themselves moderately well in the previous complex attacks. It is very possible that some of these reported detonations might have been the result of would-be suicide bombers being intercepted before they could reach their targets. This will be one of the angles that ISAF will latch onto as a “good news” story amidst the confusion.
Other Kabul complex attacks have seen insurgents prepare fighting positions and stockpile weapons and ammunition for days or weeks in advance of the attack. The 13th September attack – targeting, amongst others, the US Embassy and the ISAF HQ – saw the use of ISAF and Afghan Air Force attack helicopters launching attacks over a built-up urban area. Good profile (and practise) for the ANSF, undoubtedly, but still a shock that small numbers of lightly armed insurgents need to be dealt with in such a risky (I’m thinking collateral damage) fashion.
It’s a shame we don’t have statistics that measure the propaganda impact rather than purely the numbers of incidents…