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Coordinated insurgent attack in Kabul

January 21, 2013

By Tim Foxley

Summary: One more “complex” suicide attack into the heart of Kabul.  Limited military success, but a higher media profile.  But the Afghan security forces must be getting well-practised now, dealing with simple repetitions of the same kind of “set piece” attack each time.

Taliban lack of imagination?

Taliban lack of imagination?

A coordinated suicide attack has targeted interior ministry personnel and building in central Kabul.  Casualties are unclear but look to be in the region of 5 – 10 killed, including insurgent attackers (BBC reports three insurgents dead as of 09.00 GMT today).  Seemingly still on-going (large buildings can take a long time to clear of committed fighters, if you are being careful – and why wouldn’t you be?).

Analysis and Outlook

The attack was almost certainly undertaken by the Taliban or an associated group, such as the Haqqani network or Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HIG can never be entirely ruled out).  The attack is predictable and the pattern very well set now.  Going from previous attacks into the capital, I would expect the path of events to look something like this:

  • early morning (dawn) initial blast, together with perhaps two or three additional blasts and perhaps two or three points of attack
  • a small group of attackers (5-10)
  • attackers very well trained and rehearsed for their specific target
  • High visibility of Afghan security forces – high likelihood that western special forces are mentoring/guiding in the background
  • most of the casualties are the attackers themselves – it is unusual to expect them to survive
  • a siege lasting several hours as the security forces try to root out the surviving insurgents
  • the incident over within 24 hours
  • standard media speculation about insecurity in the city
  • await next incident (every 3 – 6 months?)

Where is this going?

Although this does continue to demonstrate the capability and intent of the insurgents to reach into the city and spread uncertainty and fear, I would also suggest that, the overall weaknesses in the Afghan security forces notwithstanding, some of their more specialist units are getting very regular experience in dealing with what are pretty much identical “set-piece” attacks.  They have to be getting at least slightly better each time.   Reaction times must be getting quicker, as must their abilities to manage traffic in the city, the media and the safety of other key Afghan government and international targets while the incident is on-going.  In a cynical sense, this is almost perfect training:  the same attack type, on your home ground with all your best security assets to hand, and expert advice and support on hand if you need it.  While the initial attack may be a surprise (although patterns of intelligence “chatter” are probably giving some big hints), once it starts, the security forces and the international community (and probably the citizens of Kabul themselves) know just what to do.

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