U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says members of the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani insurgent group were behind the spectacular string of coordinated attacks in Afghanistan early Sunday, and they came as no surprise.
The coalition says the attacks mark the start of the spring fighting season in Afghanistan.
- FOUNDER: Jalaluddin Haqqani, a former anti-Soviet resistance commander.
- BASE: North Waziristan, Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan.
- TOP COMMANDERS: Siraj Haqqani, son of founder Jalaluddin Haqqani. Haji Mali Khan, uncle of Siraj Haqqani.
- LINKS: U.S. officials have linked the network to Al-Qaida, Pakistani Taliban, and the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence agency.
- THREAT: U.S. considers it one of the biggest threats to the U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. It is blamed for many high-profile attacks, including last year's attack on a NATO base that wounded 77 U.S. soldiers, and the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
Militants pounded Kabul and other parts of eastern Afghanistan in coordinated attacks for nearly 18 hours. The Taliban claimed responsibility.
But U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says that is not so.
“The intelligence indicates that the Haqqanis were behind the attacks that took place," said Panetta.
Panetta told reporters U.S. intelligence knew the attacks were coming, and the militants achieved nothing.
“There were no tactical gains here," he said. "These are isolated attacks that are done for symbolic purposes and they have not regained any territory.”
U.S. officials are portraying the attack as a sign that the Afghan security forces they are training are now more capable of standing up to the militants on their own. Afghan soldiers and police led the fight against the insurgents.
General Martin Dempsey is the top officer in the U.S. military:
“The French provided a couple of helicopters," said Dempsey. "We provided a couple of helicopters, but this was very much an Afghan show.”
But while Afghan forces won American praise for how well they fought, their president blamed the assault on NATO intelligence failures.
The attacks also raise broader questions of what lies ahead when U.S. forces leave in 2014.