As Afghan Smoke Clears, Suspicion Falls On Haqqani Network
April 16, 2012
As the guns fell silent and Afghans returned to the streets in the capital and other cities targeted in daring weekend attacks by militants, Afghan officials were pointing a finger of suspicion at the Pakistan-based Haqqani network.
The seemingly coordinated incidents, in Kabul and three eastern provinces, killed at least 11 Afghan government troops and four civilians and resulted in the death of 36 attackers, the government said, and that the Pakistan-based Haqqani network was involved.
Targets in the capital included the British and German embassies, prominent hotels frequented by Westerners, NATO's headquarters, and the Afghan parliament.
In the incidents in the provinces, the attacks appeared aimed at Afghan security forces and infrastructure.
The day after the attacks were launched, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said they represented an intelligence failure on the part of both Afghan and "especially NATO forces."
Tracking Down The Culprits
Interior Minister Besmillah Mohammadi said a militant arrested by Afghan police has confessed that the Haqqani network -- which has reported links to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and is thought to have been involved in the assassination in September of High Peace Council head and former Afghan President Burnahuddin Rabbani -- launched the attacks.
The Haqqani network is also thought to have been complicit in a June attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul in which 12 people were killed.
In October, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Congress that she and other U.S. officials had urged Pakistan's civilian and military leadership during a recent visit to "join us in squeezing the Haqqani network from both sides of the border and in closing safe havens."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on April 16 that he "condemn[s] these attacks in the strongest possibility terms" and adding that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) was "monitoring the situation."
"We need to strengthen the capacity of counterterrorism efforts and of Afghan national security," Ban said. "These issues will be discussed in detail at the forthcoming NATO summit in Chicago in May. The UN remains committed in supporting the efforts of the government to consolidate peace and democracy."
Cities Under Siege
In Kabul, a battle lasting around 17 hours came to an end in the early hours of April 16 after raids on militant positions in the Afghan capital involving NATO helicopters.
The militants' assaults in the capital included the use of rockets and mortars as well as suicide bombers.
Afghan government forces say they took control of Kabul's Shirpoor and Darulaman districts early on April 16 -- the last areas of fighting.
The Afghan Interior Ministry says that, in all, 36 militants were killed, along with eight members of the government's security forces and three civilians.
Afghan General Mohammad Ayub Salangi, the Kabul security commander, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that the raid early on April 16 saved dozens of civilians who were trapped in a building seized by militants.
"The situation has returned to normal in this area," Salangi said of the area of Darulaman. "The last remnants of the insurgents resisting in a building were killed. The good news for us is that about 35 people -- including workers and a woman who were stuck inside the building -- were saved unharmed. Only the woman was injured, and she was taken to the hospital. About five attackers were killed [there]."
The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attacks, calling it the start of their spring offensive, saying they had help from allied militant groups.
Kabul residents have expressed shock at how dozens of armed insurgents managed to infiltrate the heavily fortified capital.
Officials of NATO's International Security Assistance Force were quoted late on April 15 as saying Afghan forces had handled the response to the Kabul attacks on their own.
But some Western observers say the use of NATO helicopters in the final assault raises questions about whether Afghan security forces will be able to handle a similar battle without NATO support after the scheduled withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, BBC, AFP, dpa, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, and RFE/RL correspondent Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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