Seven Taliban fighters with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns launched a rare assault on NATO’s operational headquarters at the military section of Kabul’s international airport on Monday. All seven attackers were killed.
Their failed attack showed that despite a security blanket around the capital, Afghanistan’s insurgency is far from defeated after nearly 12 years of war, and terrorists can still menace the capital.
Gunfire and explosions from the pre-dawn battle could be heard in many parts of Kabul. No one was killed except the attackers, but it emphasized the challenges faced by Afghanistan’s fledgling security forces as they prepare to take the lead from a U.S.-led coalition that is rapidly withdrawing its remaining forces.
The spectacular attacks are aimed at demoralizing the population and sowing mistrust in the Afghan security forces’ ability to protect their citizens — rather than military gains.
“We can expect high-profile attacks, we can expect insider threats and we can expect maybe some assassinations,” said German Gen. Gunter Katz, spokesman for the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force. “We adapt our security measures appropriately, we assess the security situation on a permanent basis and we remain very vigilant.”
The Taliban, who claimed responsibility for the airport attack, have been testing Afghan security forces as foreign combat troops pull back more than a decade after the U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban regime for sheltering al-Qaida’s leadership after the Islamic extremist group launched the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.
In declaring their spring campaign, the Taliban said they would target Afghan and coalition forces and government officials around the country. Although they said they would not target civilians, the overwhelming number of dead and wounded so far has been ordinary Afghans.