Jan 20, 2014

The Aftermath of Kabul Restaurant Attack

  Afghanistan security forces help an injured man from the scene of the attack, where at least 21 — mostly foreigners — were killed.
By: Massoud Hossaini/AP
The Taliban attack on a Lebanese restaurant, the “Taverne du Liban” in Kabul, which took 21 lives, 13 foreigners, and 8 Afghans, caused a great grief to many families inside and outside Afghanistan. The question that should be asked the Afghan security apparatus and President Hamid Karzai would be: “How is it possible that the three suicide attackers penetrated one of the most highly secure areas in Kabul?”

The government has already suspended three police chiefs who were obviously responsible for Wazir Akbar Khan’s security breach. With no doubt one of these police chiefs must be responsible for allowing the attackers to pass through the security barricades, several check points, and finally infiltrate into the building. It is quite likely that one of those chiefs has received money from the Taliban, and might have involved in the scheme independently if not acted in a group. If so, there must be an element of distrust between Karzai and his senior government officials who might be linked with the Taliban over the attack. Otherwise, doubt may cast on Karzai himself and his commitment towards people’s security. Karzai has been infamous for sympathizing with the Taliban calling them “unhappy brothers” and most importantly, he recently decided to release 72 Taliban prisoners who were considered the most “dangerous criminals.”

Inside Afghanistan, some believe that the recent attack on Kabul restaurant might have operated by those Taliban prisoners that Karzai ordered the release a week ago. However, the Afghan officials have already said that such a sophisticated and complex attack is not expected from the ordinary Taliban. The Afghanistan's National Security Council (which is chaired by Hamid Karzai) has blamed the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, for orchestrating the attack.

Whoever is behind the attack the consequence will be costly on Afghanistan, and its people. First, the security breach demonstrates the weakness of Afghan security forces, and specifically their incapability of sustaining the security of foreigners in Kabul. Such attacks are serious threats towards foreign investors and the consequence is detrimental to the Afghan fledgling economy, which has already flagged as the foreign aid has started drying up. In addition, such attacks on foreigners will potentially generate a ground of distrust and cynicism between foreigners and Afghans. As a result, the community of expatriates in Kabul will isolate more than before as mistrust is breeding.

Second, the accusation of Pakistan involvement in the attack will definitely have a serious repercussion on Afghanistan-Pakistan fragile relations. Since the Afghan government has earnestly been seeking Pakistan’s cooperation for peace talk with the Taliban, the National Security Council’s allegation may halt the peace process efforts, and it is very likely that within the next few days the Pakistani officials will angrily react to the Afghan government’s accusation.

Third, for the Afghan people, since the United State has decided to withdraw its troops in 2014, such attacks cause serious concern for their security. A Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) which allows some of the U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan and has already approved by the Afghan tribal elders, Karzai still refuses to sign the agreement. Finally, such attacks will certainly be a threat to the upcoming 2014 Afghanistan’s presidential elections, though Karzai would benefit for postponing the election in order to hold on to power beyond 2014.


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