Kabul Under Siege

It was a nightmarish scene that had worried American security and military officials for years: The United States embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, were under siege from insurgent forces. The Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based insurgency allied with the Taliban and al-Qaeda, had penetrated the city’s maze of Hesco barriers, concrete T-walls, checkpoints, and international forces, launching a complex attack in which burqa-clad suicide bombers penetrated the city and snipers fired rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles from a half-finished nearby building. Amb. Ryan Crocker, a veteran of bombardment of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad during the height of the surge, tried to appear unruffled. “This really is not a big deal,” Crocker said. “If that’s the best they can do, you know, I think it’s actually a statement of their weakness.”

Despite the impressive work the ambassador has done in both Iraq and Afghanistan, this wasn’t the most believable response. It was reminiscent of other recent excuses U.S. officials have offered about our troubles in Afghanistan. When Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s half brother Ahmed Wal Karzai was killed, it was supposedly a positive, because now we could put a reformer in his place. When the mayor of Kandahar was killed — a reformer who might have taken the place of Ahmed Wali as a power broker in the south — it was said to be a sign of Taliban desperation. NATO spokespeople have been saying similar things since way back in 2005 about every Taliban suicide attack — all signs, we were told, that the insurgency was weakening.

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