After several months of relative calm, the Taliban have struck back with a vengeance across Afghanistan. In a series of attacks in Kabul and provinces in the east, the insurgent group has again demonstrated its ability to seemingly strike at will even in high security zones.
According to news reports, gunmen launched multiple attacks in Kabul on Sunday, targeting Western embassies in the heavily guarded diplomatic area of the city, as well as the national parliament in the west. Reports by Reuters suggest that a rocket-propelled grenade landed just outside the front gate of a house used by British diplomats in the city center, while two rockets hit a British Embassy guard tower.
The attacks are being described by some as part of one of the most daring offensives since the conflict began. According to a text message sent to reporters by Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid, their main targets in the capital were the German and British embassies and the headquarters of the NATO-led force in Afghanistan.
The attacks, which started in the early afternoon, continued for three hours in a move that would no doubt have reminded residents of the protracted siege that took place in September, when Taliban gunmen continued firing for hours.
The Taliban’s audacity was also on display in the provinces of Logar, Paktia and Nangarhar. In Gardez, the capital of Paktia Province, insurgents took over a building used by students. Three militants were reportedly killed in the ensuing gunfight with security forces, while three police officers and five civilians were also said to have been hurt.
In Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar Province, the U.S. air base came under attack. According to news reports, four suicide attackers came disguised in women’s clothing, although all were killed by security forces, the BBC reported. Four civilians are said to have been killed during the attempted attack.
In Logar Province, the New York Times reported that: “four suicide bombers had entered the Mining Ministry building while two others had occupied another building in an effort to target the nearby governor’s office and the National Directorate of Security office, the Afghan intelligence department.”
“The puppet government and its foreign backers claimed the Taliban would not be able to launch a spring offensive, but today's attacks were the start of our spring offensive,” Mujahid said.
The attack has come a month after the Taliban withdrew from peace talks, and a day after the appointment of Salahuddin Rabbani as the head of the Afghan Peace Council. Rabbani, who is tasked with trying to find some ground for reconciliation, is the son of former Afghan President and Chairman of Afghan Peace Council Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was slain last year.
The resumption of attacks will inevitably raise further doubts about the prospects for peace in the country, and have undoubtedly underscored the Taliban’s resilience. Sunday’s raids will also prompt many to question the NATO transition plan, which calls for control of security in the country to be handed over to the Afghan National Army in 2014.
Stratfor, a geopolitical think tank, suggests the scale of the attacks was essentially about symbolism.
“The extent and coordination of the attacks are in themselves noteworthy. While the April 15 attacks have grabbed headlines worldwide, these attacks failed to demonstrate that the tactical or operational situation in Afghanistan has changed,” it said. “The Taliban’s challenge continues to be in part to ratchet up domestic opposition to the war in the West, which it has so far failed to do, or to make the Western presence in Afghanistan appear more tenuous.”