Monday, 16 April 2012

Kabul Attacks - Is Afghanistan Ready for its Own Security

Yesterday attacks on government installations in Kabul and across Afghanistan have left 36 insurgents and eight Afghan policemen dead.  The casualties also included 65 people injured.   The attacks, which the Taliban called the start of their spring offensive and retaliation for the Quran burnings, were also conducted in the provinces of Logar, Paktia and Nangarhar.

The focus of the attacks and the Taliban's seemingly changed strategy to move from the battlefield to an infiltration of government facilities is troubling.  The method has been used several times after the Quran burnings, on a smaller scale.  One or two gunmen had infiltrated Afghan Secuirity Forces and opened fire on their NATO mentors.  At least six British soldiers and seven Americans have been killed at the hands of those they were mentoring.  Two of the deaths occurred in the Afghan Ministry of the Interior.

The attack conducted over the weekend was at a much larger scale and by all accounts took all day to resolve.  It took a combined force of Afghan and Norwegian Special Forces to quell the insurgency at a construction site in  the central district of Wazir Akbar Khan.  While the operations were reportedly led by Afghan Forces, it is not clear how they would have fared on their own.

What is clear that some Afghans, including lawmaker Shukria Barakzai, are skeptical on how Afghan Security forces would deal with these situations on their own.  The attacks have shattered the confidence of those that felt that Kabul was a safe place.  Whatever the Taliban's aim was for these attacks, they have raised doubt as to the safety of the whole country. 

NATO continues to put a positive spin on the ongoing transition.  The Afghan security forces “were on scene immediately, well-led and well-coordinated. They integrated their efforts, helped protect their fellow citizens and largely kept the insurgents contained,” said General John Allen, commander in Afghanistan. 

The fact that the Taliban gained access to a secure area in Kabul has to be troubling from an intelligence point of view.  Fighting in urban areas is difficult, especially if you try to avoid colleteral damage. 

While it is hard to gauge whether or not Afghan Security Forces are ready to accept responsibility for their own security, it would be prudent to assess how they performed during this operation. 

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