Taliban attacks - the start of a spring offensive? | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 16.04.2012
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Taliban attacks - the start of a spring offensive?

Experts refer to the recent string of Taliban attacks in Afghan province capitals as a new 'quality of terror and force.' Some wonder whether this was the beginning of a spring offensive.

Skirmishes broke out on Sunday in the embassy district of Kabul where the Afghan parliament is located, and important targets were attacked in six further districts, according to NATO. Residents reported explosions and gun shots.

"There were numerous armed people," said one resident. "They came in a normal family car and stormed a multi-story hotel. And from there, they shot in all different directions."

The area is home to the German and British embassies, the Presidential Palace and a military base, among other facilities.

Taliban claim responsibility

Heavily armed Taliban militants attacked targets in Jalalabad, the capital of the Nangarhar province, in Pul-e-Alam, the capital of the Logar province, and in Gardes, the capital of the Paktia province. All three provinces lie in the embattled eastern part of Afghanistan.

Smoke rises from the embassy district in Kabul following attacks

The embassy district in Kabul was attacked by the Taliban

The Taliban, via their spokesman Sabiullah Mudschahid, claimed responsibility for the attacks in the provincial capitals. Dozens of militants took part in the operation, the spokesman told news agencies. The attacks marked the beginning of the Taliban's spring offensive against international armed forces and Afghan security forces, he added.

The recent series of Taliban attacks show a new quality of terror and force, according to Afghan security expert Abdulbari Aris.

"To plan and execute a series of attacks on three provincial capitals and the capital, Kabul, is unique and unprecedented in the past 10 years," Aris said. "It shows that the Taliban are becoming more powerful."

The Afghan government and NATO need to rethink their security strategy, he added. The attacks show that Afghan security forces are not in a position to ensure security.

Rethink security strategy

At the moment, the Afghan government wants to avoid a discussion about security issues. The situation would be far worse without Afghan security forces, said Lutfullah Mashal, a spokesman for the Afghan secret service. More than 10 suicide bombers, he told DW, had been arrested before the attacks in Kabul and Kunduz.

The US ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker

US Ambassador to Affhanistan, Ryan Crocker, is concerned about Afganistan's long-term security

"They were arrested before they were able to launch the attacks," Mashal said. "During their interrogation, they admitted to being sent to Kabul by the Haqani network."

For years, the Haqqani network has worked with the Taliban, particularly in Kabul.

The United States praised Afghan security forces for their quick reaction. "We witnessed a very professional reaction by the security forces," Ryan Crocker, the US Ambassador to Afghanistan, told a US news broadcaster. The Afghan armed forces, he said, have shown they "are able to handle such incidents on their own," referring to their swift reaction "as a sign of progress."

Afghan political expert Miangul Wasiq has a different opinion, however.

"With this series of attacks, the Taliban wanted to show how powerless the Kabul government is in preventing such incidents," he said. "The weakness of the Afghan government is a source of growing concern to people in the country."

Wasiq spoke of a psychological victory for the Taliban. Afghans are becoming increasingly worried, he said, about what will happen when the international forces leave the country in 2014.

USAmbassador Crocker shares their concern. A withdrawal of the international armed forces before the Afghan security forces have completely taken over security of the country, he said, would be an invitation for the Taliban and al Qaeda to return. And this could open the door for a new September 11, the US ambassador added, in reference to the terrorist attacks in the US in 2001. That, he stressed, would be unacceptable.

Author: Wali Achakzai / jb
Editor: Sarah Berning

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