In what may very well be the beginning of the much anticipated Taliban “spring offensive” in Afghanistan, the Taliban — some believe it is the Haqqani network, an offshoot of the Taliban — launched a coordinated series of attacks on the diplomatic quarter of Kabul, the Afghan Parliament and at least three eastern provinces on Sunday.
Both the New York Times and the Washington Post are reporting extensively on this.
The simultaneous attacks — there were at least three in Kabul, two in Nangahar Province and one each in Paktia and Logar provinces — tested the Afghan military and police who responded in Kabul with minimal help from NATO other than back up from French helicopters and the small number of mentors that are embedded with some Afghan security units, according to Western military officials.
There were no NATO troops seen around the city, and by late afternoon Afghan crisis response teams were in place at the Parliament and in the streets near the foreign embassies, according to people who were in the area.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks and described the extravagant onslaught as the opening of their spring offensive.
“This is a message to those foreign commanders who claim that the Taliban lost momentum,” said Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman. “We just showed that we are here and we will launch and stage.
Insurgents attacked cities across eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, including three prominent targets in Kabul, in a rare coordinated attack spanning some of the country’s most important urban centers. The Taliban called the effort the beginning of its spring offensive.
By evening, as the attacks were still ongoing, at least 14 police officers and nine civilians had been wounded, according to the Interior Ministry.
In central Kabul, insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades and rifles from an unfinished eight-story commercial building. From their perch, at least four men fired in the direction of the German Embassy and NATO’s military headquarters, both of which were just a few hundred yards from the attackers.
What made Sunday’s attack particularly brazen was the apparent coordination between insurgents in Kabul and beyond. Although the Taliban has successfully executed spectacular attacks in the capital before — including the protracted attack on the U.S. Embassy in September — insurgents have never attacked so many disparate targets simultaneously. In addition to the three Kabul targets, there were at least three other attacks in large cities across eastern Afghanistan.
In a statement released Sunday night, NATO played down the significance of the incidents, calling them “largely ineffective.”
Let’s hope that they in fact are — and stay — “largely ineffective.”
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.