Just like the old days: Kabul attacks – a parting shot
By Tim Foxley
Yes, of course it did raise a smile and there are many humorous angles you can bring to this. Youtube footage of Afghan parliamentarian Naeem Lalay Hameedzai trading machine-gun fire with the Taliban (analytical disclaimer: or Haqqani, or HIG) during the insurgent attack on Parliament during the 15th April complex attacks. And drinking his tea during the lull in fighting. And I’m sure there is an element of newly discovered Afghan popular pride at MPs actively and directly defending democracy. And I wonder how many MPs prefer this kind of solution – or at least understand it better than negotiation and compromise?
My angle, however nit-picking it might be, is this – its pretty crazy to have unauthorised random armed people involving themselves in street battles against a complex insurgent attack. I’m sure there are already enough friendly-fire incidents as it is. It reflects badly upon the Afghan security services and the ISAF forces mentoring them. At best it is a humorous distraction, at worst it can get people killed.
There is precedent to this “getting people killed” idea – Bismillah Khan, the Minister of Interior, no less, who really, really, really, should know better, intervened very personally and very unhelpfully in the 13th September 2011 attacks:
The Guardian: “John Allen, the US commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, is reportedly furious with the country’s interior minister, Bismillah Khan Muhammadi. No wonder if he is.
In the view of western and Afghan sources, the old mujahideen commander single-handedly took the shine off what otherwise would have been the finest hour for the country’s fledgling special forces when he intervened directly during last week’s battle with insurgents in Kabul. The minister took command of a team trying to fight its way up a building, ordering them to rush the final assault.”
Old habits die hard
Another Western official nailed the problem:
“This is a problem with their military culture where they think the senior commander should be at the front,” a military official said.
And from the same report, the other story I was going to mention – the Kabul Chief of Police abandoning co-ordination duties to go and hurl grenades at insurgents during the attack on the British Council in August last year:
“In August, efforts to save two British hostages trapped when the British Council was overrun by insurgents was delayed by four hours when Kabul’s police chief attempted to personally lead his unspecialised policemen into the compound.”
Clearly old habits die hard. Ahmed Rashid wrote about the Taliban’s regime in the 1990s, where no one was really able to get anything done at the Ministry anytime the Minister decided to take himself off to the front line for weeks or months…