David Blackburn

A black anniversary

A black anniversary
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Even after 10 years, Afghanistan still has the capacity to shock. Details of the attack on Kabul are vague, but it seems that a posse of Taliban fighters dressed in “military garb” walked into the offices of the British Council and the United Nations; three people were killed in the ensuing explosions and fire-fights between security forces and insurgents. As I write, reports suggest that one Islamist is still alive and shooting in the British Council, while other explosions have been heard across the capital this morning.

Taliban spokesmen have confirmed that they had carried out the attack to mark the 92nd anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence from Britain. But they declined to explain why the British Council and the United Nations, which are both cultural organisations first and foremost, were targeted. It remains to be seen if this was a botched targeted assassination, of the sort executed on Ahmed Wali Karzai last month.

The attack comes a month after NATO transferred responsibility for Kabul’s security to Afghan forces, and will renew the near constant question about their ability to maintain order without NATO leadership. Obviously, that question might affect the pace and extent of western military withdrawal in the immediate future. At the same time, it may simply stiffen the resolve of many in the US Congress to get the hell out of there as soon as possible.