NATO Says it Thwarted Broader Taliban Attacks
(AFP) -- NATO forces thwarted a series of planned attacks in Afghanistan aimed at coinciding with the 9/11 anniversary, the head of international forces said Thursday after a deadly battle in Kabul.
In the wake of the brazen assault on the Afghan capital which left at least 15 dead, British Army Major General Tim Evans, head of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command, said insurgents had planned a much bigger effort.
"We do believe that (Taliban forces) were trying to do an attack on the anniversary of 9/11 and actually we thwarted a number of attacks," he told a teleconference with reporters at the Pentagon.
Evans acknowledged that the dramatic attack was "a spectacular tactical action" but said "it didn't reach any of the government buildings, it didn't achieve any of their aims."
"They did not breach any of the compounds of either the (US) embassy, ISAF, or any of the government buildings," he added.
The assault on the Afghan capital was quelled Wednesday after raging for 19 hours in a hail of rockets, grenades and suicide blasts.
Afghan and foreign troops battled insurgents who targeted the US embassy and NATO headquarters, sowing fear and confusion and raising fresh questions over the Kabul government's ability to secure the country even after a 10-year war.
The standoff ended when troops finally killed the two last insurgents who had held out overnight in a high-rise building under construction just a few hundred meters from the heavily guarded US embassy.
Evans said that the reason the battle lasted so long was that the attackers were contained.
"Once they were contained, there was no point trying to rush that operation," he said. "We did not have any deaths as we cleared the operation... which is a good result."
Evans argued that the battle shows that the Taliban is weakening, while trying to gain visibility with these high-profile attacks.
"We know that the insurgents have changed their tactics to go for spectacular events in order to get media coverage," he said.
"They've lost ground in central Helmand, they've lost ground in Kandahar, and therefore that's why they've had to change their tactics. They haven't got that same initiative that they had before."
He said overall attacks by the Taliban have been declining.
"We expect insurgents will continue to pursue attacks against soft targets" to gain more attention "in an attempt to exaggerate their influence."
The US ambassador to Kabul, Ryan Crocker, blamed the attack on the Haqqani network, a group allied with the Taliban that is considered the most effective insurgent force along Afghanistan's porous eastern border with Pakistan.
The assault was intended to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, which prompted the US-led intervention in Afghanistan.