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Taliban Attacks in Kabul Also Target Public Opinion

Afghan policemen fire toward a building that the Taliban insurgents took over during an attack near the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 13, 2011.

Afghan policemen fire toward a building that the Taliban insurgents took over during an attack near the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 13, 2011.

Tuesday's insurgent attacks in the Afghan capital of Kabul were aimed at high-value targets in an effort to influence public opinion about the direction of the war. The Taliban, unable to win militarily, seems to have shifted to terrorist tactics.

The coordinated attacks by small teams of Taliban fighters targeting secure, but high-profile sites in Kabul, have received extensive media coverage worldwide. But they are likely to have more of an impact on public opinion than to actually achieve any strategic victory.

The insurgent teams attacked the U.S. Embassy, the headquarters of the NATO-led security force, the Afghan intelligence agency and other areas around the center of the city.

Afghan security forces responded and, with some minor help from NATO troops, were able to put down the attacks with very little damage to Kabul, Afghans or foreign nationals.

In a press release, Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack while praising the effective response of the Afghan authorities.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Siddiq Siddiqi said the attackers' only aim was to sow terror. He said Afghan forces are ready to repel such attacks whenever they occur.

"Their main objective and aim is to create terror. As they did today," said Siddiqi. "And they should be informed and notified that Afghan forces are much ready today, much equipped today, and they are trained today and if they want to attack us again they will face the consequences, and whenever they attack the Afghans they will be killed and they will be killed badly, as they were today."

The attacks in Kabul are the latest in a string of high profile attacks this summer, including attacks on the Hotel InterContinental and the assassination of President Karzai’s brother in Kandahar.

According to NATO spokesman General Carsten Jacobson, the Taliban are shifting to these kinds of very visible attacks because, with NATO having conducted a surge of troops, the insurgents no longer can win on the battlefield or hold territory.

Kate Woodsome interviews Ekram Shinwari, VOA's Afghan Service, Kabul, Afghanistan

"The insurgents did not shift or change their tactics voluntarily; they didn't have a chance. We are not seeing any more open operations in the field against our formations because they haven't got the capability to do it," said Jacobson. "So the terrorists did not succeed in their military aims, they succeeded in the attention that they were gaining. That is what terrorists do all over the world: they search for a high-value target, for something that is public, they strike and then they count on the public effect that they have. It is terrorism and nothing else."

With a drawdown of coalition troops already under way - its ultimate aim being the total withdrawal of Western combat troops by 2014 - the West also is focusing on training Afghan forces.

In addition to counter-insurgency operations in the country's hills and villages, however, Afghan troops also may have to conduct a counter-terrorism campaign. And part of that fight will have to take place in the arena of public opinion.