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Good Reads: Taliban's Kabul attack, looming demise of Al Qaeda... and the euro

Today's top stories include a report that the Taliban attack on Kabul may have been a 'last gasp.' Also; how Al Qaeda is being eclipsed by its affiliates. And is the eurozone on its last leg?

By Scott BaldaufStaff Writer / September 14, 2011

A soldier, part of the coalition forces, holds his weapon during a gun battle with Taliban militants in a building in Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, Sept. 14. The 20-hour insurgent attack in the heart of Kabul ended Wednesday morning after a final volley of helicopter gunfire as Afghan police ferreted out and killed the last few assailants who had taken over a half-built downtown building to fire on the nearby US Embassy and NATO compounds.

Musadeq Sadeq/AP

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It wasn’t the Tet Offensive, but yesterday’s sustained rocket attack on Western embassies and the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters in Kabul has certainly rocked American military planners, who have been preparing to draw down US forces in Afghanistan and to hand over the security role to the Afghanistan Army.

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Just as a reminder, the Tet Offensive was a massive wave of attacks by Viet Cong insurgents against US forces and the government of South Vietnam on Jan. 31, 1968, involving 80,000 troops, in coordinated attacks against 100 towns, with pitched battles reaching the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, as it is now called.

Yesterday’s attack in Kabul, by contrast, was thought to have been carried out by the Haqqani wing of the Taliban, and involved just nine insurgents. Those nine Taliban fighters managed to kill 7 people and wound 19 others, and lob a rocket into the US Embassy compound. More important, these fighters waged their post-Sept. 11 extravaganza for some 20 hours, raising questions about Kabul’s ability to defend itself once US and allied forces leave the country by 2014.

Until recently, all the stories coming out of Kabul were about conducting talks with the Taliban. This attack shows the Taliban are not in a talking mood, but rather, as New York Times writers Alissa J. Rubin, Ray Rivera, and Jack Healy wrote in today’s paper, it signals “Taliban resolve to battle Western forces to the hour of their exit.”

Ms. Rubin and company win today’s prize for Best Understatement by a Western Diplomat.

“This doesn’t show reconciliation; it does show determination. If the Taliban can do this with five guys perched in a building and they can alternate it with these vehicle-borne I.E.D.’s” – car bombs – “which they have been doing more of, well then this won’t be the last time.”

In the Monitor, Pentagon correspondent Anna Mulrine writes that US military officials tend to see large-scale attacks like this as a “last gasp” for the Taliban. But she also notes that a few more gasps like this could be effective in weakening trust in the fragile Afghan government, and they show that the Taliban are adapting their battlefield techniques.

“The attack, however, is important and troubling, analysts add, because it may signal a worrisome shift in the way the insurgency has decided to wage war against America and its NATO partners.

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