We were treated to a “spectacular” coordinated, complex attack yesterday in Kabul and a number of other places in Afghanistan. Seemingly a Taliban/Haqqani joint effort, it was the start of their “Spring Offensive” that had been expected for a while by many of us thinking it was just too quiet around here these days.
At HQ ISAF, in the heart of Kabul’s diplomatic zone, my first indication something was up was the number of US force protection and infantry soldiers (unlike the mixed-up forces of Macedonian, US army and Marines I saw having fun last September) who rushed to the sentry posts.
Then we were treated to a series of explosions in the distance, which was the precursor to hours of RPG fire around the city, incoming and outgoing small arms fire and a few more suicide bombs going off.
One RPG came inside the base, about 25m from my office, where I was filming from the window (in full pro-gear, obv). Luckily, it landed in a concrete-lined cesspit, so no-one was injured from the impact or the fallout.
Around town, we heard reports of a location near us being used as a base for attack- opposite the Iranian embassy and near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Presidential Palace, German embassy, UK embassy, basically as many targets as you can shake a rocket at.
Also, the Afghan parliament in the west of Kabul came under attack. We heard reports of one Afghan MP (from bad-ass Kandahar province, naturally) getting on the roof and fighting the attackers alongside his bodyguards and Afghan Security Forces. The attackers took 35 hostages from a nearby bank.
Additionally, there were attacks in Paktia, Logar and Jalalabad (on an ISAF airbase).
My Afghan and western journo friends were around town filming their hearts out - you’ll see a lot of their footage on the TV. The above photos are from Jake Simkin and David Gilly from the excellent Kabul At Work. Check their facebook page and the full album.
The attacks in Kabul took 18 hours to put down fully, as commandos carefully took the buildings where the insurgents were holed up floor-by-floor. It’s being trumped as a triumph for Afghan forces, as their didn’t officially request ISAF help. If we’re going to be accurate, though, ISAF Special Forces from Norway and New Zealand were there with the Afghan Commandos mentoring (you can see these in David Gilly’s album). And anyone who was up after midnight will have heard the black hawk helicopters strafing the building in Wazir Akbar Khan. So not completely a solely Afghan operation, although, as my friend Paddy Smith observed from a location only 100m away, the first man up the ladder into the building was Afghan,
“He knew there were live bad guys in there and after 3 or 4 people refused, he climbed the ladder, pistol in hand and made the entry.”
Our footage wasn’t as sexy as last year, but my interview with ISAF spokesperson, B-G Carsten Jacobson did make BBC and Al-J.
Edit: casualty figures still unclear. Chief of Police, Gen Salangi made the following statement on Twitter:
"ANSF killed 16 attackers in 3 locations. Sadly 5 civilians injured&6 police killed. Proud to say Kabul police rescued 35 civilians hostage"
I heard yesterday, though, on the Afghan grapevine, that 12 students were killed near to the Kabul Star hotel, where the W-A-K attackers were based. This remains unconfirmed for now.