While demonstrating the capabilities of Taliban terrorists, three almost simultaneous attacks Friday in Kabul were handled by Afghan security forces, which officials took as a sign that training by the U.S. military has paid off.
KABUL, Afghanistan — The unprecedented wave of attacks in Kabul — three major bombings in less than 24 hours that killed at least 65 people and wounded hundreds more — was arguably a major victory for Taliban forces, who proved they could mount simultaneous operations with devastating effect, including on a U.S. military base.
In Afghanistan, the attacks Friday were also being seen in other lights. Afghan security forces handled three complex emergencies almost simultaneously, proving perhaps that training of Afghan forces has paid off. Afghan officials were quick to congratulate themselves, noting that in the three attacks, scattered widely around the capital, the insurgents never breached their targets’ inner defenses. Most of the victims were outside the walls, either passers-by or defenders at the gates.
Afghan officials blamed the intelligence agencies of “neighboring countries,” code for Pakistan, which has long sheltered the Haqqani network and given sanctuary to the Taliban leadership. “The insurgents carry out such attacks targeting civilians in order to attract the attention of the world, and to hide their failures on the battleground,” said Brig. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense.
Waziri added that 97 percent of would-be attacks by the insurgents are thwarted by Afghan government forces before they can take place.
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Nonetheless, the barrage of attacks on Friday made it not only the single deadliest day in Kabul this year, but the deadliest in many years. The attacks, which caused the first U.S. military death since June, were also proof that even U.S. soldiers, who remain in greatly reduced numbers and on mostly a training and advising mission, are still vulnerable.
While the Taliban’s claims of hundreds of dead were almost certainly inflated, the insurgents proved that despite the infighting in their leadership, they are able to evade the heavy security cordon around Kabul and mount sophisticated, large-scale attacks.
All three attacks were directed at security targets: a military-intelligence headquarters for the Ministry of Defense; the Kabul Police Academy’s training facility; and a U.S. and coalition military base, Camp Integrity, north of Kabul’s international airport. In intense fighting there, a U.S. soldier was killed along with eight military contractors, according to a statement from the U.S. military.
The attack on the U.S. base took place late Friday and continued for hours, with the insurgents using a suicide car bomber to blow a hole in the outer wall, allowing at least three other attackers to enter. They were stopped at an inner gate by coalition soldiers and contractors.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on Camp Integrity and the separate attack earlier in the evening on the police academy, where a suicide bomber, wearing an explosives vest under a police cadet uniform, mingled with cadets who had returned to the base after their weekend leave. They were waiting to be allowed to enter the heavily guarded base when the attacker detonated his vest.
The Taliban insurgents did not claim responsibility for the third attack, a massive truck-bomb explosion outside the headquarters of the Afghan military-intelligence agency, possibly because nearly all the victims were civilians. The bomb leveled rows of shops and dozens of homes, killing at least 15 and wounding 240.
The attacks Friday highlighted the weakness of the coalition government, still wrestling with internal dissension between followers of the president, Ashraf Ghani, and his chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah. In the middle of a long and bitter war, the country remains without a confirmed defense minister 11 months after Ghani and Abdullah’s inauguration.