America is currently experiencing some monster tornadoes deep in the heartland. As dawn breaks across the land, the scenes of devastation are dramatic, but the casualties so far remarkably low. Modern early warning systems have a lot to do with that. When a sudden serious storm breaks in Kabul it’s a tornado of metal and there is one unwinding in Kabul as I write these words. In Afghanistan tornadoes are not a problem; spectacular Taliban attacks are though and right now there is a series of them in progress. So far we have reports of attacks in Zanbaq Square, Qanbar Square, the ISAF logistics base a few miles east of downtown and the Parliament building in Kabul. There are also reports of attacks on the PRT’s in Jalalabad and Logar, the police headquarters in Paktia and Kandahar. With the exception of Kandahar all these targets are in the East; exactly where ISAF is claiming they will concentrate their attention this fighting season.
The problem with announcing your plans long before commencing an offensive is that the enemy gets a vote too. And the enemy has decided to preempt ISAF with an offensive of their own. As usual, the attacks are rather spectacular and for a change, well coordinated. Tactically they will fail. The attackers will inflict whatever minimal damage they can with small arms, explosives, and RPG’s and then die in place. Afghan security forces have locked down Kabul and no doubt the other sites too and can now afford to take their time clearing out the villains.
Wind tornadoes strike with little warning; steel tornadoes strike with no warning. We were exiting a local bank when the shooting started. It was close to us but you get that around here sometimes. A few rounds fired from one weapon is not a reason for alarm and when Haji and I heard that we thought nothing of it. As we headed back towards the safe house we were surrounded by frantic armed men, some in uniforms some not, some carrying M4’s, others sporting AK’s. They were the security detail for a senior Afghan official and trying to clear the usual traffic jam in order to get their charge off the street and into a secured location. To the perceptive man on the street, frantic high-end Afghan security guards are as sure a sign of heavy winds inbound as a tornado siren would be in the Midwest. My driver Haji jan (a former Taliban leader who has been with me for 5 years now) looked at me and said, “trouble.” I looked back at him and said, “no shit.” We both smiled because there was nothing else we could do until the traffic jam cleared up.
When I wrote the last post, I asked the question, “to what end?” when discussing the soon to be launched ISAF offensive. I don’t care how many “leaders” are killed in night raids nor how many insurgents are rolled up in this pending offensive. Does anyone honestly think it will make a difference? I don’t. The Taliban seem to be able to penetrate the Kabul “Ring of Steel” at will and I bet, based on the amount of shooting I’m hearing, they stockpiled ammo and weapons inside the downtown area just like they did for their last attack inside Kabul. Can ISAF stop it? No, it has nothing to do with ISAF; it’s an Afghan problem and only they can fix whatever it is that is dysfunctional enough to allow HIG and Taliban militants to launch operations inside Kabul at will. I’m getting the feeling that these “spectacular” attacks in Kabul are the new normal. It’s going to be a long summer.
The Afghanistan Live Blog from Al Jazeera has the best coverage and is updated frequently. You can find it here.