The attack on Kabul yesterday was yet another demonstration of how inept the Taliban are at the planning and execution of a simple raid. The attack has been described in the press as “audacious” and “brazen” which is true. All their attacks in downtown Kabul are conceptually bold military moves; but they accomplish nothing. A better description of their performance would be incompetent. Seven heavily armed attackers – one in a bomb-rigged ambulance killed three policemen and two civilians, one of them a child. They failed to make it onto their objective retreating instead into the most popular market in downtown Kabul which they then destroyed. That is a dismal performance by a raid force which had gained complete surprise when they unmasked themselves in Pashtunistan Square. Dismal isn’t even strong enough to describe how poorly the Taliban executed the raid – how about “more stupid, incompetent and wasteful of personal time then a Nancy Pelosi press conference?” That doesn’t really roll of the tongue but you get the idea inshallah.
The best chronology of yesterday’s attack was filed by Dexter Filkins of the New York Times. As an aside, he filed an excellent outside-the-wire style piece on his efforts to help the schoolgirls who were attacked by men on motorcycles throwing acid in their faces last year. It is a long story with an ending so typical for Afghanistan, that it is iconic in my book. I have mentioned Mr. Filkins once in a previous post where I took the piss out of him for reporting from inside the US Military security bubble. After reading A School Bus for Shamsia, I take it all back. He is developing a sense for this conflict which few dedicated reporters have developed. He could develop into the main stream media’s Michael Yon if he invested the time required to develop his own situational awareness.
In military tactical terms, yesterday’s attack is classified as a raid. Raids are designed to attack soft targets which are not prepared for and do not expect direct attack. Getting onto the objective without being discovered is the easy part of most raids. The hard part is withdrawing your force back to friendly lines – a problem which was not relevant to the Taliban attackers who had no plan or intent to escape once they committed to the attack. The execution of a successful raid requires meticulous planning and preparation, including multiple, detailed rehearsals in order to condition men in contact to function with speed and purpose and ultimately, achieve the difficult task of getting back across friendly lines.
The attackers had no supporting arms to coordinate, no aircraft, no inter-squad communication, no higher headquarters communication, and apparently, no real plan. One of them gets shot trying to bum rush the guards outside the Central Bank and detonates himself; a cluster of 3 to 5 invade the Faroshga Market, tell the locals to leave and barricade themselves on the upper floors where they are eventually killed; and then an ambulance, which has slipped through the security cordon, detonates in Malik Asghar Square inflicting the only KIA’s during the entire event. So the big raid ends up destroying the new market downtown, which the people of Kabul are proud of because it is resembles modern shopping stores like they see on TV. The seven man Taliban raid force could have done dozens of walk through rehearsals on the very objective they were going to attack to tighten their assault plan time-line down to the second. But they didn’t because when it comes to military tactical proficiency they suck which indicates that they do not have organizational strength expected from a third rate High School football program. I’m talking about American football here folks – football which requires players to use their opposing digits – and a third rate High School team would be expected to learn something about the game after 8 years of playing it. The frigging Taliban are as stupid as the day is long.
Continuing with the day’s theme of “stupid Taliban attacks” we headed east to an ambush site near the Torkham border. If this were in fact an insurgent attack it would be very bad news for us reconstruction types. There are places known for Taliban attacks and places where we expect no Taliban activity due to the number of tribal inhabitants who will not allow fighting Taliban into their areas of influence. We had several Reports that a fuel tanker had been hit in an ambush in an area where we expect zero Taliban activity so we needed to go talk with the locals around the ambush site to figure out what was up?
Turns out one quick look at the truck and we did not need to talk to anybody. As is the case in over 60% of fuel tanker attacks in Afghanistan this was a case of fuel theft. We ran into some Pakistani’s who work for the trucking company and were also investigating the reported ambush. They said they had not heard one word from or about their driver and his assistant. Fuel thieves – they are as stupid as the Taliban completely unable to come up with a good plan and execute it.
The raid in Kabul yesterday was meaningless. It will have minimal impact on the Kabul government and the internationals who work with them in the various ministries. It was just one of the many security incidents which are a normal part of the daily landscape in the contested portions of the country.
The day which started with a poor rocket shot, followed by a key stone cops style raid, and a blatant fuel theft ended with the report of a large bomb located on private property just outside of Jalalabad:
It was HME (home made explosive) which was mixed so poorly it could not be detonated. The blasting cap blew, but the bomb was a dud. ISAF tried to blow the bomb in place – but it still did not go – just a low order “poof.” Amateurs. It appeared to be directed at local people and no doubt, the latest shot in an ongoing land dispute.
The Taliban have been fighting us for over eight years and yesterday’s raid was the best they could do, given their vast combat experience? That raid was a fiasco, which indicates to me we have time… a lot of time to get this thing right. All we need is the will.