I woke up on Friday morning to the news that there was a complex attack ongoing at Qargha Lake resort. I had to re-read the headlines several times to make sure I was reading it right. Then when Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, was quoted saying that the bombing was due to the attacked hotel being,
"…used by foreigners for their illicit fun and having parties. It was a special hotel for Afghan government officials and foreigners”
I really thought something was fishy.
Qargha lake is a place of relaxing on a Friday afternoon for Afghan families or young men to kick a football around. It’s several hours drive from Kabul’s centre. They have swan-shaped pedaloes.
While foreigners do visit it on day-trips, myself included, they do not stay in the hotel that was attacked. Certainly any high-level officials find it hard to visit the restaurants and bars in Kabul itself with numerous security restrictions itself. It’s extremely unlikely they would visit, let alone stay, in Qargha.
As for drinking alcohol, it is conceivable that some Afghans do drink alcohol in Qargha hotel. It’s even conceivable that some may take their girlfriends, mistresses or even wives to stay there. But as a target for the Taliban - purely civilian, with no high-level targets inside or nearby (there are no military bases or governmental buildings nearby), it’s very strange.
Complex attacks like these are usually carried out by the Pakistan-based Haqqani network. Commander of ISAF, John Allen, believes they were behind this attack. However, the moral nature of the attack’s justification points towards the Taliban. But, the targeting of civilians runs against their own strategic guidance, which categorically states that fighters should take careful measures NOT to hurt civilians.
Personally, I believe that this was a case of attackers not being able to reach their desired target and making do with what they could reach on the outskirts of Kabul. When suicide bombers are sent to cities, like Kabul, they are typically given a list of several possible targets as back-ups, in case one fails. I think the moral justification for the attack was probably the best publicity spin that could be created after the event.