As attacks like Sunday's stymie NATO and Afghan government claims that they are making progress against the insurgency and erode confidence in the government, there is increasing pressure to determine why high-profile attacks continue to happen in Kabul and who is responsible.
The 17-hour Kabul attacks have led some to worry that the fighting is just a sample of what is to come this summer and has raised questions about whether the Afghan government or international troops can do much to stop such incidents.
Most fighting here occurs in the provinces outside the capital city. Kabul, meanwhile, is generally considered as something of a “security bubble.” During the past year, however, Kabul has seen several high-profile attacks, including the assault on the US embassy in September and the Intercontinental Hotel in June.
“Even though yesterday’s attacks didn’t harm many foreign or Afghan forces, the insurgents wanted to show that they are stronger and can reach any spot with organized, complex attacks,” says Noor-ul-haq Ulumi, a former Afghan Army general.
Sunday’s fighting marked one of the most complicated attacks on the capital in recent memory. Insurgents struck throughout Kabul and in the eastern provinces of Nangarhar, Logar, and Paktia, killing 11 Afghan security forces and 4 civilians. Forty-two Afghan security forces were also injured along with 32 civilians. All 36 insurgents involved in the attack were killed and one more was arrested, according to police.
A number of analysts and some Afghan officials have blamed the attack on the Haqqani Network for Sunday’s violence. There is also some speculation that a faction of the Taliban – members who don’t want to negotiate for peace – are responsible for launching the attacks.
But General Ulumi says, “The Taliban wants to show themselves as strong. If they do any talks with the Afghans or US government, they’ll have a powerful stance. They’ll get a good share from any kind of deal.”
Although these attacks resulted in relatively limited harm to Afghan and international forces, they stand in contrast to Afghan and international claims of headway against the insurgency. The attacks may be militarily ineffective, but the ability of the groups to move such large numbers of weapons and fighters into supposedly secure areas of Kabul paints a grim picture of security conditions here.
President Karzai called the infiltration of the capital an "intelligence failure for us and especially NATO."
Still, it appears unlikely that militants will receive enough support among the general population to hold any enduring influence or sway over the population here.
“If they continue like this they will not be able to rule this country. People will resist until their last blood,” says Saleh Mohammad Saleh, a member of parliament from Kunar Province, speaking about insurgent-caused civilian casualties and property damage caused during the attack. “To rule you need the support of the population and if you alienate the population than how will you rule? It will be hard for the Taliban to even control a small part of Afghanistan.”
As insurgents fired on the parliament building, lawmakers say that Naeem Lalai Hamidzai, a member of parliament from Kandahar Province and former police commander, took to the roof and personally returned fire.
“Since there were attacks in the past, we can’t say this was an isolated attack. If the government really tries hard maybe they can create security,” says Mohammad Rafi, who runs a plumbing shop next door to a building that was occupied by insurgents during Sunday’s fighting. “Right now the government is not strong enough to stop the terrorist attacks on Kabul.”