A deadly suicide attack on a NATO convoy in Kabul at the weekend underscored a key vulnerability in the alliance’s practices. A vehicle filled with explosives rammed a heavily-armored transport traveling along a predictable route. Seventeen NATO soldiers and civilians died in the blast.
The targeted vehicle was of a design known as a ‘Rhino.’ Custom-built by Labock Technologies in Florida, the Rhino is specifically designed to protect its occupants from bomb blasts. Weighing up to 13 tons, the Rhino comes in various configurations seating up to 36 people. Its sloped hull and sophisticated armor protect it from all but the most powerful explosives.
The US military and its allies have used Rhinos for years. During the height of the Iraq war, Rhinos transported civilian and military personnel between bases in Baghdad – almost always under the cover of darkness and with helicopters and armored vehicles as escorts. Insurgents attacked Rhinos in Baghdad several times, usually without managing to harm the occupants.
While heavily protected, the Rhinos in Baghdad often traveled along predictable routes between military facilities. Rhinos in Kabul apparently do the same thing.
The bomber in Kabul, said to belong to the Haqqani terrorist group, apparently knew when and where the Rhino would appear. The attacking vehicle reportedly struck the Rhino rather than merely exploding nearby. That maximized the blast’s destructive force.
The Kabul attack is further evidence of the continuing strength of insurgent and terror groups in Afghanistan, a decade after the U.S.-led invasion.