Taliban launch coordinated attacks in Kabul and 3 provinces
The Taliban launched coordinated attacks in the Afghan capital and three other provinces today. In Jalalabad in Nangarhar province, US and Afghan forces repelled a suicide assault on a military base. Attacks were also reported in the provincial capitals of Paktia and Logar.
In Kabul, the Taliban targeted seven different locations in the Wazir Akbar Khan district, which hosts foreign embassies, an ISAF base, and other sensitive installations. The Taliban reportedly seized control of several buildings under construction and opened fire on the US, German, Russian, and British embassies, the Afghan parliament, the Kabul Military Training Center, and other sites. Gunfire and at least 10 explosions were heard in locations throughout the capital.
In Jalalabad, the Taliban launched attacks against Forward Operating Bases Finley-Shields and Fenty.
"At approximately 1:30 p.m., a large explosion occurred outside FOB Fenty, near the airfield located in Jalalabad. The attack caused no damage or injuries to the installation," the US military said in a press release.
At 1:53 p.m., a four-man suicide assault team launched an assault on FOB Finley-Shields, but was repelled after killing one civilian with a "vehicular-borne suicide bomb," or car bomb, and "small arms fire." The base defenders killed three of the attackers and captured one other. Afghan security forces found "26 RPG rockets and two launchers, 1 PK-machine gun with 500 rounds, three AK-47 assault rifles, nine hand grenades, one pistol and several master keys" after the attack on the base.
In Logar, the Taliban took control of a building near an office of Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security intelligence service in Pul-i-Alam, the provincial capital. In Paktia, the Taliban seized a building near the university in Gardez, the provincial capital. Fighting is said to be ongoing in both Paktia and Logar.
In addition, the BBC reports that 15 militants who were planning attacks were captured in Kunduz city in the province of Kunduz. And two suicide bombers and an attack planner were captured in central Kabul province, according to Pajhwok News.
In all 19 Taliban fighters and two civilians were reported to have been killed during the fighting.
The Taliban claimed the attacks on their website, Voice of Jihad, and in emails to journalists.
"In all these attacks, tens of mujahedeen fighters equipped with light and heavy weapons, suicide vests, RPGs, rockets, heavy machine guns and hand grenades are attacking their targets," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, according to The Associated Press. "We are strong and we can attack anywhere we want," he continued, and said the Taliban would announce its "spring offensive soon."
Today's coordinated attacks take place just five days after the spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force claimed that it hasn't seen evidence of "cohesive action" by the Taliban yet this spring [see LWJ report, Taliban suicide bombers kill 17 in attacks in south, west].
Today's attacks were likely carried out by the Haqqani Network, the powerful al Qaeda-linked Taliban subgroup commanded by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin. The Haqqani Network executed a similar attack in Kabul in September 2011, in which its fighters fanned out in the capital, occupied buildings, and targeted the US Embassy, NATO headquarters, and other installations, as well as an assault on a hotel in Kabul in June 2011. Admiral Mike Mullen, then the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said evidence linked the attack to the Haqqanis, and that the September attack was supported by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. Afghan intelligence later released phone conversations of Haqqani commanders directing members of the suicide assault team in the June attack. The Haqqanis released a video commemorating the June attack later in the year.
The Haqqani Network has an extensive presence in Kabul, Paktia, and Logar, and coordinates operations in the capital with the so-called Kabul Attack Network, which is made up of fighters from the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, and cooperates with terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and al Qaeda. Top Afghan intelligence officials have linked the Kabul Attack Network to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate as well. The network's tentacles extend outward from Kabul into the surrounding provinces of Logar, Wardak, Nangarhar, Kapisa, Ghazni, and Zabul, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.
The Kabul Attack Network is led by Dawood (or Daud) and Taj Mir Jawad, military and intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. Dawood is the Taliban's shadow governor for Kabul, while Taj Mir Jawad is a top commander in the Haqqani Network. In the US military files that were released by WikiLeaks, Taj Mir Jawad is identified as a key Haqqani Network leader.