News / Asia

Taliban's Kabul Attack Kills 21, Heightens Security Concerns

An Afghan driver removes a broken windshield of his car following the Friday's suicide attack and shooting in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014.
An Afghan driver removes a broken windshield of his car following the Friday's suicide attack and shooting in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014.
Ayaz Gul
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for an attack on a Lebanese restaurant popular with foreigners that killed 21 people in Kabul's Wazir Akbar Khan district Friday evening.
Police say a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the restaurant, and that two gunmen then stormed the establishment spraying diners with bullets, killing 13 foreigners, including a top envoy of the International Monetary Fund for Afghanistan, the senior United Nations political affairs officer and two other U.N. staffers, and two Americans with the American University in Afghanistan.
Afghan policeman stands guard next to damaged entrance of recently attacked Lebanese restaurant, Kabul, Jan. 18, 2014.Afghan policeman stands guard next to damaged entrance of recently attacked Lebanese restaurant, Kabul, Jan. 18, 2014.
Afghan policeman stands guard next to damaged entrance of recently attacked Lebanese restaurant, Kabul, Jan. 18, 2014.
Afghan policeman stands guard next to damaged entrance of recently attacked Lebanese restaurant, Kabul, Jan. 18, 2014.
The gunmen were killed by police.
The attack is seen as a critical blow to Afghan peace and reconciliation efforts, and it has raised serious concerns ahead of the security transition that is due to begin in Afghanistan in April.
Authorities in Kabul say that investigations are under way to determine circumstances that led to what is being condemned as the deadliest assault on foreign civilians in Afghanistan since the start of U.S.-led military campaign in 2001.
Addressing a gathering of provincial police chiefs in Kabul on Saturday, Interior Minister Mohammad Omar Daudzai, who oversees Afghan police forces, said he has suspended the commander and intelligence officer in charge of the district and placed both of them under investigation.
"The aim of attacks against civilian locations like the restaurant is to isolate Afghanistan by discouraging foreigners from visiting and living in the country and forcing educated Afghan youth to flee abroad," he said, describing an enemy that wants to push Afghanistan back to a previous century.
“Afghanistan has completely changed and the youth this time is not ready to flee," he said.
Claiming responsibility for the attack, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told VOA that penetration of its fighters into such a heavily-guarded part of Kabul demonstrates that the group is capable of regaining control of the country after withdrawal of foreign troops.
If the Taliban “can have access and transport fighters to what [Afghan authorities] dub a Red Line area where senior officials of invading countries reside, it shows the Taliban has the capability to retake our country,” he said.
Friday’s attack targeted a place “where invaders used to dine with booze and liquor in the plenty,” he said, adding that it was planned to avenge a coalition airstrike earlier in the week against insurgents in the eastern Parwan province that killed “many Afghan civilians.”
Afghan authorities say the offensive that reportedly involved U.S. air support killed a number of Taliban fighters, including a senior insurgent leader.
Interior Minister Daudzai says any attack that kills local and foreign civilians shows insurgents are not willing to come to the negotiating table and are determined to continue their violent campaign.
Abdul Hakim Mujahid, a senior member of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, says only peace talks can end to the Afghan conflict, telling VOA that civilians are dying not only in Taliban attacks but in military operations undertaken by Afghan and foreign troops.
“These kinds of incidents may happen again and again, but it tells us that we have to go for a political settlement and we have to prevent all the military operations in Afghanistan," he said. "We have to create trust and confidence among different segments, different elements of the crisis.”
Formed in 2010 by President Hamid Karzai, the High Peace Council, which comprises influential Afghans, was devised in a bid to engage Taliban members in peace and political reconciliation efforts, though it has made no headway.
The latest Taliban violence has increased security fears ahead of the historic presidential election in April, because insurgents have rejected the polls as a “U.S.-staged drama” to legitimize its "occupation of Afghanistan."
Moreover, NATO-led international forces are due to end their combat mission in Afghanistan by the end of this year and the United States wants to retain a much smaller military presence in the country past 2014. The residual American force is meant to help nascent Afghan security forces prevent the Taliban from staging a comeback.
However, President Karzai has refused to sign a bilateral security agreement with the Obama administration to allow for the proposed American force to stay in Afghanistan.
The United States has warned it will be forced to completely withdraw forces from the country if the security pact is not in place soon. The standoff between Kabul and Washington has fueled uncertainty about future stability and security in Afghanistan.
The White House on Saturday condemned the attack as one with "no possible justification," describing victims as "innocent civilians ... working every day to help the Afghan people achieve a better future."
The U.S. State Department issued a message saying the U.S. remains committed to peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon extended his condolences to the families of the U.N. staffers killed, calling the attack "another sad moment for the United Nations ... and a violation of international humanitarian law."
The U.N. Security Council stressed the need to bring the "perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice."
A number of embassies and foreign organizations have offices in the area of the attack, and many Afghan officials live nearby.
A January 4 Taliban attack at the gateway to a large NATO base in central Kabul did not inflict any casualties. The same day, a suicide bomber struck a coalition base in Nangahar province, killing one NATO soldier. Five militants were killed trying to storm the base after the attack.

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Comment Sorting
by: JKF from: Great North (Canada)
January 20, 2014 1:29 AM
The sit in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate; this latest criminal terrorist attack, against innocent civilians, demonstrates very clearly, that the massive security effort, by the Afghan gvmt, in Kabul, only works in some areas/sometimes but not others; worse case deliberate relaxation of the security cordon, best case just incompetence The refusal of Kharzai to sign the security agreement, is another clear indicator as to the ideology of Kharzai; the continued restrictions wrt movement and even operations, imposed by Kharzai, is also a clear indicator wich reflects on the negative security outcomes, that are observed; the fact that the pre-election process is not rolling out in any significant manner, also is an indicator of what maybe occurring; other indicators re drug production; re corruption; etc make it appear that Kharzai wants the West out ASAP, an increased level of instability will leave no other option, but to call for emergency rule, delay the elections, thus Kharzai/his chronies will be able to remain in power... a type of scenario that has been seen many times before. It certainly does not look good. Innocent courageous civilians, local and from other countries, trying to better the lives of ordinary Afghan people are paying the ultimate price for retaining the status quo; very horrific situation.

by: MikeBarnett from: USA
January 19, 2014 4:18 PM
The main goal in these attacks is to prove that the government cannot protect its people, its primary duty. This attack also hit foreign officials who normally have higher levels of protection, so it would have a bigger impact among Afghans. The West wants islamic insurgents to stand in open fields where western troops can engage in ritualized forms of mass murder using cluster munitions, rapid fire cannons, and other high tech weapons. The insurgents use weapons and tactics that allow them a higher likelihood of inflicting casualties on those that they view as enemies whether the West likes these tactics or not. Finally, the US will leave at the end of 2014 because Afghans will not permit the trial of western troops in the West for crimes committed in Afghanistan. This same problem caused the US to leave Iraq at the end of 2011. Extraterritoriality ended with imperialism.

by: Kafantaris from: Warren, Obio
January 19, 2014 10:35 AM
Why would the Taliban want to lay down their arms? This is all they have.
They live in a world they don't understand or have any interest in doings so. They understand how to survive -- exactly as their forefathers did -- and don't want to change one iota from that. Indeed, they'll kill anyone who tries to change them -- and as easily as they kill an animal.
Yes, the life they live is all they know, and absolutely don't want to learn any other way. So forget about education, or women's rights, or the fair treatment of anybody. What they say goes, fair or not.
How your bring this mindset to the 21st century without education and not get blown up is the challenge. But for the time being, either we kill the Taliban hotheads or they'll kill us; there's no dealing with them.

by: powerandprivilege from: USA
January 19, 2014 10:12 AM
Follow the money trail that is used to arm our enemies. Subversives abound.....

by: rd from: ks
January 18, 2014 6:45 PM
It is not the majority that wants USA out. It is the taliban . You might remember these people are the ones that attacked New York during the day, when the most possible citizens were present.
In Response

by: Waqar Khan from: NYC
January 19, 2014 11:42 AM
Firstly, Taliban never had attacked New York. Taliban were created by the USA and Saudi to fight the Soviet. No one want us in Afghanistan. This war is illegal and the majority of the US doesn't support it. Osama is dead, and now we are wasting our time there....

by: Markt from: Virginia
January 18, 2014 5:15 PM
if the Afghan government does not want U.S. forces in their country, then by all means, get our people out of there. There is absolutely no reason for our forces to stay in a country that does not want them there. Keep our own people alive by getting them out, and let them kill and destroy each other with reckless abandon, if that is their wont to do so. There is no negotiating with these militants, they only know death and destruction and are blind and deaf to everything else. We will see (after our forces have gone) how quickly they want us back when the Taliban do seize that country back. It is their bed, let them lie in it.
In Response

by: kamikrazee from: kansas
January 19, 2014 10:15 AM
I don't know what the majority of Afghan's want. The president of Afghanistan is playing both ends against the middle in terms of finalizing an agreement prior to elections to keep or remove troops from his country. He is i a difficult position, but he is using the American presence as an excuse for his positions vis a vis the Taliban.

At this point, I say stop selling weapons to the region, period. There are no dependable allegiances. Let them have the place.
In Response

by: ahsan from: kabul
January 19, 2014 6:46 AM
No dear Markt the people are doing such an anti humanity activaty among poor people of this country who has passed 30 years of civil war injustice are not afghan people they came from borders i think you saw the family of victim there was seven daughter left after him.the victim was an afghan a driver

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