Tags: Taliban | attack | weak | Afghanistan

Taliban Attack Exposes Afghan Weaknesses

Tuesday, 19 Jan 2010 08:59 AM


KABUL - As their target, they selected the hub of Afghan governance, a part of downtown Kabul that includes the presidential palace, the Justice Ministry, the central bank and other heavily guarded buildings.

Then, on Monday morning, as the heart of the capital bustled with shoppers and Afghans on their way to work, seven Taliban militants with AK-47 assault rifles, grenades, rocket launchers and suicide vests hidden under their shawls unleashed their attack. The militants left five people dead and laid bare Kabul's vulnerability even as the U.S. ratchets up the war to rout the militancy.

The daring raid illustrated the Taliban's skill at carrying out reconnaissance that can set the stage for such an attack, and exposed glaring weaknesses in the U.S.-backed Afghan government's ability to adequately secure the heart of the country.

Somehow, the insurgents were able to get explosives, firearms and a massive amount of ammunition past the gantlet of checkpoints that ring downtown Kabul. For five hours, they plunged the city's center into a state of war.

Afghans darted for cover while bursts of gunfire rang out overhead and explosions shook the downtown. Thick, black smoke billowed into the sky as NATO helicopters hovered above.

"We used to think this kind of attack was no longer possible in Kabul," said Nasir Ahmed, an Afghan police official, shouting above the din of machine-gun fire and rocket explosions. "Now it's clear we've got to do a lot more to make this city safer."

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