The Taliban claim responsibility for recent Kabul attacks, but the US pins blame specifically on the Pakistan-based Haqqani network in what some see as a bid to salvage Taliban peace talks.
Although Ambassador Crocker downplayed Tuesday's Kabul attack as 'not a very big deal,' they may have undermined US and Afghan assertions that Kabul's security situation is stable.
The US Embassy attack and others around Kabul cause few casualties but may signal the Taliban's desire to engage in a politically and psychologically effective war of attrition.
Local journalists in the targeted Afghan province say they have no knowledge of the Haqqani leader or of an airstrike. But the quick response to the InterContinental attack has given a peek into the US approach in coming years.
Neither Afghan nor American observers expect the Kabul attack on the InterContinental Hotel to shut down the peace process.
While last night's deadly suicide raid on Kabul's InterContinental Hotel showcased Taliban capabilities, early details also indicate some success in the new model of having Afghan forces take more of a lead on security.
The recent assaults on New York Times photojournalist Lynsey Addario and CBS foreign correspondent Lara Logan underscore the new dangers that female journalists face in covering conflict in a culture where the clash of liberal and traditional values is especially intense.
Rocket attacks against Israeli and Jordanian resort towns on the Red Sea are believed to have come from Egypt's Sinai, raising fresh concerns about militant activity – possibly including Hamas – there.
With President Hamid Karzai's rivals crying foul, the incumbent may win by solid margins but lose legitimacy – which could hamper counterinsurgency efforts.