Five heavily armed Taliban insurgents waged an eight-hour battle against a residential compound of a United Nations affiliate on Friday in their latest attempt to prove their might. The Taliban has stepped up its attacks as the deadline for foreign troops to withdraw from Afghanistan approaches.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a suicide bomber first detonated himself in a car near the gate of the compound of the International Organization for Migration in an upscale Kabul neighborhood. Five insurgents then stormed the compound and initiated a "massive" firefight against Afghan police and security guards at the compound. The last insurgent was killed eight hours after the attack began and the casualties also include a six-year old child, one Afghan police office, and two Nepalese Gurkha security guards.
The Taliban may have hit the wrong target despite the seemingly careful execution of the attack. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, claimed the intended target of the attack was a CIA guesthouse. The locations of these sorts of facilities are rarely publicly disclosed but there seem to have been no indications of such a guesthouse on the compound.
The Taliban has escalated attacks in Kabul including the killing of six American military advisers last week. A general sense of unease has returned to the capital city, and the country as a whole. Over the past week alone there were bombings in other provinces like Kandahar, Ghazni, and Bhaglan.
Sami Sadat, a Kabul-based security analyst and former Afghan Ministry of Interior official, believes the attack was proof of a weakened Taliban, and not an emboldened one: "The fact that they couldn't tell the difference between a CIA guesthouse and the IOM compound shows that their system of command has been weakened, that it's no longer that effective," he said. U.S. officials agree with this analysis as many, including even President Obama earlier this week, believe that the Taliban's core operational structure has been irreparably damaged.
Daud Sultanzoy, a former member of the Afghan parliament and the host of a political TV show, thinks otherwise: "They want to show they have manpower to carry out this kind of operation." The attack on a non-military compound could have been a test of the Afghan security and police apparatus according to The New York Times. Military officials described it as the first "complex attack" since January that involved gunmen and suicide bombers.
In the past insurgent attacks have taken up to 18 hours to end, and in comparison yesterday's attack was subdued within eight hours. Amrullah Aman, a retired Afghan general, evaluates Afghan forces as still requiring extensive training and better equipment.
Even if the Taliban's recruitment and operational capacities have been decimated, yesterday's attack proved they still have the coordination powers left to inflict potentially devastating damage. Afghan forces have a short time period to strengthen their response before U.S. troops completely pull out of the country by the end of 2014.
Meanwhile, as police were reviewing the scene of the attack and updating death tolls, a man wearing a burqa died when his explosives-rigged vest went off prematurely in a failed suicide attack.