Four men, which the Taliban have claimed, attacked a guesthouse in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in northern Kabul last night. Authorities say the attack began with bomb explosion around 11 PM. An acquaintance of mine in Kabul tweeted from her private account at the time: “okay, that’s definitely not fireworks.”
Miraculously, only the four attackers were reported to have been killed in the standoff which lasted six hours. According to TOLOnews the guesthouse’s security, “along with special forces managed to prevent the insurgents from storming the hotel – despite one attacker detonating his suicide vest in order for them to gain entry.” The interior ministry says the attackers were armed with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and assault rifles.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani congratulated security forces on Wednesday saying that “our security forces once again proved that they are capable of defending our country and people against any threats and disruptive efforts.”
A lot has been said in the past few months regarding the capability of Afghan forces to adequately provide security in the country and a series of high-profile attacks in Kabul seem to be serve as testament to the deteriorating security situation. But, as Franz-Stefan Gady noted in late April, the fighting season has begun with a vengeance.
By summer’s end, we’ll have a better assessment of what the Afghan security forces can handle on their own. Tuesday’s guesthouse success may be overshadowed by the generally worsening security situation in Kabul and around the country. Earlier on Tuesday, three checkpoints were seized by Taliban in Helmand Province and at least 20 security and police officers were killed. Fighting was reported in southern Kandahar and in Wardak, in the east, four suicide bombers attacked a local court.
Earlier this month, a Taliban gunman walked into the Park Place Hotel in Kabul, where mixed group of Afghans and foreigners were attending a classical Afghan music concert, and began shooting. Fourteen were killed in that attack.
After Tuesday’s attack, the Taliban said in a statement that they had targeted “a hotel of foreign invaders in Kabul’s most secure neighborhood.”
Wazir Akbar Khan (WAK), one of Kabul’s wealthiest neighborhoods, is home to a number of embassies, guesthouses, and hotels, and has been the site of previous Taliban attacks on foreigners. In January 2014, an attack on a popular Lebanese restaurant left 21 dead. The guesthouse attacked Tuesday, previously known as the Heetal guesthouse and now owned by the family of foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani, had been the target of a 2009 Taliban attack. The hotel manager told AFP that the “Heetal is very well fortified.”
Afghan officials are well aware of the security situation in their country, and their pique at repeated reports of the under-preparedness of the Afghan security forces is beginning to show.
Sediq Seddiqi, the interior ministry spokesman, alluded to the worsening situation in Iraq (a comparison Afghans know all too well) and U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s recent comment that “Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight” when ISIS moved into Ramadi.
“We accept that we have challenges, but we know how to deal with it, it is not Iraq, we fight back with full force,” Seddiqi said.