View Full Version : [Afghan News] April 16, 2012


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04-16-2012, 02:33 PM
Insurgent says Haqqani was behind Afghanistan attacks
By the CNN Wire Staff April 16, 2012
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The lone survivor in a group of 36 insurgents who carried out a series of sustained assaults in Kabul and across eastern parts of Afghanistan told officials he had been working for the Haqqani network, a ruthless, well-trained organization linked to al Qaeda.
The nearly 18-hour assault left four civilians and eight members of the Afghan security forces dead and wounded about 65 people, the Afghan interior minister said Monday.
It was the most dramatic and widespread assault in the Afghan capital since an attack in September on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters.
That attack was also believed to be the work of Haqqani fighters, who are blamed for killing more than 1,000 coalition and Afghan forces.
President Hamid Karzai blamed an intelligence failure on the part of Afghans and NATO, which he said should "seriously be looked at."
"Terrorists who are the slaves of foreigners should understand that by launching such kind of attacks, they cannot stop people's will towards rehabilitation, development, peace and stability," Karzai said.
Insurgents launched the wave of audacious attacks in Kabul and three other areas of the country Sunday. Government forces said they had repelled the offensives, but some of the violence in the streets of the capital spilled into Monday.
Explosions rocked central Kabul early Monday after periodic bursts of gunfire that lasted well into Sunday night in the district that houses government offices and allied embassies.
"In Kabul, our problem was that we were very cautious not to cause any civilian casualty therefore it took us longer to act," Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi said Monday.
He said that more than 30 people had been trapped by fighting around the Afghan parliament and that it had taken until Monday morning to rescue them.
Thirty-five of the 36 insurgents involved in the attacks died in the violence, most of them killed by government forces, Mohammadi said. Only a few of them succeeded in detonating explosives attached to their bodies, he said.
Eight members of the Afghan security forces were killed, and 40 were wounded, according to Mohammadi. He said the violence had left four civilians dead and about 25 wounded.
The assaults in Kabul were a rare occurrence in a heavily guarded part of the city, but Gen. John Allen, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said Sunday that the Afghans beat back the insurgents without allied assistance.
"They were on scene immediately, well-led and well-coordinated," Allen said. "They integrated their efforts, helped protect their fellow citizens and largely kept the insurgents contained." He said the attacks were meant to signal "that legitimate governance and Afghan sovereignty are in peril," but the Afghan response "is proof enough of that folly."
The majority of the attackers used women's clothing -- with burqas covering their faces -- in order to reach their intended positions, Mohammadi said.
They even "had bunches of flowers in their car in Kabul order to show off that they were women and they were going to a wedding party or something like that," he said.
The Taliban militia that once ruled most of Afghanistan claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying it launched fighters into battle with suicide vests, RPGs and hand grenades in Kabul and the provinces of Nangarhar, Paktia and Logar.
However, one of the attackers was arrested in Nangarhar on Sunday and said during questioning that he was part of the Haqqani network, supporting the view of several observers who doubted the Taliban had the capacity to mount such offensives alone.
The Haqqani network has operated for more than 20 years and played a significant role among the mujahedeen groups that fought Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. It is currently led by Sirajuddin Haqqani and is regarded by U.S. military commanders in the region as one of the most effective and dangerous arms of the insurgency.
A recent paper by the nonpartisan Institute for the Study of War described the Haqqani network as "Afghanistan's most capable and potent insurgent group."
According to the report, the Haqqanis "continue to maintain close operational and strategic ties" with al Qaeda and its affiliates.
The paper's authors said the network had "expanded its reach" toward the Taliban's traditional strongholds in southern Afghanistan, the areas surrounding Kabul and the north of the country.
Senior U.S. officials have persistently accused elements in Pakistan's military intelligence service of aiding the Haqqanis as a way of ensuring Pakistani influence in Afghanistan.
The officials says that both the Taliban and the Haqqani network have safe havens in Pakistan that they use to launch cross-border attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Apparently supporting that point, the insurgent arrested Sunday in Nangarhar said he had been trained and equipped "on the other side of the border," Mohammadi said.
U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said he thought the attacks Sunday may be the work of the Haqqani network rather than the Taliban.
"The Taliban are very good at issuing statements, less good at fighting," Crocker said. No Americans were hurt during the fighting, he said.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force said that as many as seven locations in Kabul were attacked, including the parliament building and the American, German and Russian embassies.
Sediq Seddiqi, a spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry, said Sunday that the insurgents had taken up positions in empty buildings in three Kabul districts to carry out the attacks. The Kabul police said they found and detonated a van full of explosives.
Meanwhile, an airbase used by U.S. troops in the eastern city of Jalalabad, in Naranghar Province, also came under attack, NATO command in Kabul reported. Four suicide bombers wearing women's burqas tried to attack the Jalalabad airfield where U.S. troops are based, airfield commander Jahangir Azimi said.
At least three of the attackers were killed, ISAF said in a statement about the incident.
Separately, a group of suicide bombers attacked the police training center in the city of Gardez, in Paktia Province. At least eight civilians were wounded, said a police official at the center, who was not authorized to speak to the media and asked not to be identified.
And 15 would-be attackers were arrested in Kunduz Province plotting similar strikes, said Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, a spokesman for the chief of police for north and northeast Afghanistan.
The Taliban, the Islamist militia that once ruled most of Afghanistan, said the attacks were in retaliation for the killing of 17 Afghan civilians in Kandahar province last month. A U.S. Army staff sergeant, Robert Bales, has been charged with those killings.
But Jeff Dressler, an expert on the Haqqani network at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, said that the coordination seen in the Kabul attacks indicates a Haqqani-led network was behind them and that planned but disrupted attacks in the north may also be Haqqani-linked.
"This is likely their unofficial announcement marking the start of the spring fighting season," Dressler said. Though the attacks didn't succeed, he said, "The target selection was likely intended to send a message to the U.S., U.K., Russia and the Afghans that this will in fact be a bloody year for all forces in Afghanistan, particularly the east of the country."
U.S. Embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall said he could not confirm that the embassy itself was the target of the attacks but said gunfire had been heard in the vicinity. In a statement from London, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the British Embassy was one of the targets, but "every member of Embassy staff is safe."
"The Afghan National Security Forces responded to the attacks bravely, promptly and effectively, once again illustrating the significant progress that has been made in ensuring that Afghans can look after their own security," Hague said. The embassy premises sustained "limited damage," he said, and its staff "dealt with this dangerous situation extremely professionally."
Several rocket-propelled grenades landed in the compound of the Japanese Embassy, a spokesman for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign affairs said. Embassy staff members were moved to the compound's underground air-raid shelter, and none of them was wounded, the spokesman said.
India also said it had no reports of its citizens being wounded
CNN's Masoud Popalzai contributed to this report.

Afghan President Karzai blames NATO intelligence failure for spate of attacks
By Kevin Sieff, Updated: Monday, April 16, 7:13 PM The Washington Post
KABUL — One day after a spate of attacks left four civilians and 11 members of the security forces dead, President Hamid Karzai blamed the insurgent offensive on a NATO intelligence failure, which he said should be investigated.
Western officials are praising Afghan security forces for their largely independent response to the rare coordinated attacks. Three dozen assailants, including some suicide bombers, were killed by Afghan security forces who — after many hours — succeeded in halting the attacks.
In a statement issued by his office, the Afghan president also implicated his country’s own intelligence agency, but said the attacks across Afghanistan were a failure “especially for NATO.”
Insurgent activity appeared to have died down by Monday afternoon, as Afghan police and troops, backed by NATO forces, secured the staging grounds from which insurgents on Sunday had staged nearly simultaneous assaults on diplomatic and security installations.
The attacks spanned some of the country’s most important population centers but resulted in relatively few deaths — illustrating the insurgents’ ability to penetrate well-fortified sites but raising questions about the potency of their attacks. Karzai’s office said at least 32 civilians and 42 security force members were wounded in the violence.
In statements to the media, the Taliban called the assaults “a message that our spring offensive has begun,” and a prelude to future violence.
Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said its agents arrested two would-be suicide bombers and an “attack facilitator” who were planning to assassinate the country’s second vice president, Mohammad Karim Khalili.
The attack facilitator reportedly told investigators that he belonged to the Haqqani network — a group affiliated with the Taliban, but with its own autonomous leadership — and had been trained as an insurgent across the border in Pakistan. The Haqqani network has been blamed for previous high-profile attacks, including the protracted attack on the U.S. Embassy in September.
Both Karzai and Western officials praised local security forces for minimizing civilian casualties and foiling the attacks. “Terrorists ... must know that by launching such attacks they can not prevent the determination of the peoples of this homeland of ours from the path of rebuilding and progress, as well our goal for reaching peace and tranquility in our country,” Karzai said.
Still, as the United States prepares to withdraw its combat troops by 2014, such attacks place stress on a brittle security situation that the NATO-trained Afghan army and police will soon inherit.
The number of insurgent attacks across the country has picked up considerably in recent weeks, officials have noted, as fighters return from Pakistan.
Early Monday, Afghan-led forces fired one rocket-propelled grenade after another in an effort to defeat insurgents holed up in one building in the capital and another near parliament, the Associated Press reported.
The insurgents had held out for hours, firing at Afghan and Western security and diplomatic installations.
The initial blasts, which seemed to occur almost simultaneously, struck at least seven locations across eastern Afghanistan, including three targets in Kabul and a NATO base in the city of Jalalabad.
From their perch on the eighth floor of an unfinished commercial building in central Kabul, insurgents aimed rockets and rifles at NATO’s military headquarters, only a few hundred yards away. In another attempted siege, they struck the Afghan parliament.
The casualty toll remained lower than many initially expected, however, drawing Western praise for the actions of Afghan security forces.
The Afghan security forces “were on scene immediately, well-led and well-coordinated. They integrated their efforts, helped protect their fellow citizens and largely kept the insurgents contained,” Gen. John R. Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said in a statement.
An urban battlefield
Less than an hour after the attack began, members of the Afghan Crisis Response Unit and their NATO trainers entered the building from which insurgents were firing. There were two large blast holes visible in the facade of the Kabul Star Hotel, frequented by Westerners and wealthy Afghans, located just across the street.
A few miles away, another group of insurgents occupied a building across from the parliament, as well as another construction site, from which they targeted nearby Western military installations.
“Armed insurgents, including some suicide bombers, have taken control of buildings in these areas,” said Sediq Sediqi, an Interior Ministry spokesman.
At least one lawmaker, Mohammad Hamid Lalai Hamidzai of Kandahar, fired back at insurgents from the roof of the parliament building.
“I have four of my armed bodyguards. We are using my personal guns, and we have exchanged fire with the attackers,” he said by telephone.
Even if the attacks’ consequences were relatively muted, the insurgency’s ability to navigate the security structures in and around Kabul, as well as other provincial capitals where attacks occurred, strikes at the heart of one of NATO’s greatest fears — that the Taliban will shift its efforts away from the battlefield and focus on destabilizing the country with a string of spectacular, urban attacks. Much of Western military strategy in restive eastern Afghanistan hinges on keeping insurgents away from the capital.
Although the Taliban has successfully executed spectacular attacks in the capital before , insurgents have rarely attacked so many disparate targets simultaneously.
Fighting persists
In addition to the attacks in Jalalabad and Kabul, insurgents attacked a public university in Paktia province and Afghan installations in Logar province. Some of the attackers wore women’s clothes to conceal their faces and packed unmarked trucks and vans with explosives and weapons.
In a statement released Sunday night, NATO played down the significance of the incidents, calling them “largely ineffective.”
But well after midnight, the fighting in Kabul still appeared to be intense. NATO helicopters flew over residential neighborhoods while gunfire was exchanged below.
Through the night, crowds remained near the unfinished eight-story building in Kabul, including workers who fled the construction site when the violence began. Some of them had colleagues and relatives still stuck in the building and adjoining shops. One of those workers, Ali Jan, 37, had been communicating by phone with his brother, who had been stuck inside for seven hours. Shortly after sunset, the phone went dead.
“I’m worried,” Jan said, “but my brother told me he was in a safe room. He told me he would be okay.”
Special correspondents Javed Hamdard and Sayed Salahuddin contributed to this report.

Afghan Taliban says rehearsed attack for two months
Hamid Shalizi and Mirwais Harooni, Reuters
KABUL (Reuters) - The insurgents who mounted weekend attacks in central Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan carefully rehearsed for months, even building small military-style models and pre-positioning weapons, a Taliban spokesman said on Monday.
Zabihullah Mujahid provided Reuters with a rare insight into how the group plans strategic high-profile attacks designed to deal a psychological blow to U.S.-led NATO forces and their allies in the Afghan security forces.
In the latest, a 30-member suicide squad was dispatched to launch simultaneous assaults on parliament, NATO bases and Western embassies after two months of painstaking discussions on tactics.
"Our military experts sketched maps of the targets and also created a mock-up of them where fighters carried out practice before carrying out the large-scale operations in four provinces," Mujahid said in a phone interview.
"The fighters also learned how to enter their targets and hold them."
His account could not be independently verified.
Heavy street fighting between militants and security forces in the centre of the Afghan capital ended on Monday after 18 hours of gunfire, rocket attacks and explosions that bore strong similarities with an operation last year.
In both assaults, insurgents occupied high-rise construction sites to use as firebases after smuggling weapons into central Kabul past police checkpoints.
The battles that broke out at midday on Sunday gripped the city's central districts into the evening and through the night, with blasts and gunfire lighting up alleys and streets before Afghan special forces soldiers backed by NATO helicopter gunships killed the insurgents.
Mujahid said the insurgents, who were mostly all killed by security forces, had been selected from among the estimated 50,000 fighters battling NATO and Afghan troops and given special training.
"Ordinary fighters can't obviously carry out these important missions," he said. "The fighters who were assigned for this mission received special training on how to use heavy machine guns, suicide bomb vests and other tactics."
Mujahid said heavy machine guns, rocket grenades and ammunition had been put in place well before the assault with inside help from Afghan security forces, but did not elaborate.
A witness to the attack in Kabul's diplomatic quarter saw insurgents in a dark blue Prado SUV opening fire on a policeman before entering a building that he had been guarding.
"One Taliban opened fire toward a security guard from a window of the vehicle and another went to a security checkpoint and wounded the man inside, occupying his position," said Ahmad Zeya Azami, 29, a car mechanic, who worked next door.
"Five Taliban ran into the building."
Azami said one insurgent targeted the multi-storey Kabul Star Hotel with a rocket-propelled grenade, while another opened fire on the nearby diplomatic quarter.
"I closed our shop and escaped from the area without any wounds. But now everybody is living in fear and losing hope about the future," he said.
Ahmad Farhad, 19, another shopkeeper, said the insurgents had appeared calm and very well prepared.
"One went to the police checkpoint and others went into the building in an organized way, like they had seen the area before," Farhad said. "All were wearing traditional clothes, black or grey, and all looked to be aged about 30."
Farhad said the men had been armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles, and some had carried bags as they climbed out of a black four-wheel-drive.
Afghan and U.S. officials have blamed the attacks on the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, based along the porous Afghan-Pakistan mountain border.
Mujahid denied any involvement by the insurgent group, one of the most feared in Afghanistan. The United States has long pressed Pakistan to go after the Haqqani network, which analysts say Islamabad regards as a strategic asset.
Any Haqqani role in the weekend assault would likely further strain relations between Washington and Islamabad.
"The attacks were very successful for us and were a remarkable achievement, dealing a psychological and political blow to foreigners and the government," Mujahid said.
"Although the Haqqanis are part of the Taliban, we did not ask for any help, guidance or support. This is a baseless plot from the West, who wants to show that we are separate."
(Writing by Rob Taylor; Editing by Michael Georgy)

Attacks in Kabul won't shake NATO strategy: spokeswoman
BRUSSELS, April 16 (Xinhua) -- NATO spokesman Oana Lungescu stressed on Monday that the coordinated Taliban attacks on Sunday in Afghanistan would do nothing to change the alliance's strategy.
"We still face security challenges. This was not the first such attack, and I don't expect it will be the last. But such attacks don't change the transition strategy. They don't change the goal and they don't change the timeline," she told reporters at NATO headquarters.
The spokeswomen said the "planned and coordinated" attacks only caused limited casualties, which showed the improving capabilities of Afghan forces that will take over full security responsibilities from NATO by the end of 2014.
"They dealt with the situation. They defeated the attacks. And they did it largely on their own. They did what they were trained to do, and they did that very effectively," she said.
However, Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday blamed NATO for the attacks, which have left 48 people dead and 65 others injured.
"The fact terrorists were able to enter Kabul and other provinces was an intelligence failure for us and especially for NATO," he said.
NATO foreign and defense ministers are scheduled to meet on Wednesday and Thursday in Brussels, with Afghanistan high on the agenda.

Canada calls Afghanistan attacks 'reprehensible'
AFP via Yahoo! News - Apr 15 01:37pm
Canada's foreign affairs minister on Sunday called a wave of coordinated attacks across Afghanistan "reprehensible."
"Canada strongly condemns the terrorist attacks on Afghanistan, its people and its democratic institutions," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement.
"These deliberate and reprehensible attacks on Afghanistan's parliament and on diplomatic missions, whose personnel are committed to helping Afghans, highlight the systematic destruction that the insurgents are willing to unleash against the Afghan people.
Baird also said Canada remains committed to helping Afghanistan build "a peaceful, democratic country that respects human rights."
Explosions and gunfire rocked the Afghan capital Kabul Sunday as suicide bombers struck across Afghanistan in coordinated attacks claimed by Taliban insurgents as the start of a spring offensive.
The US, British, German and Japanese embassy compounds came under fire as militants attacked the city's diplomatic enclave and tried to storm parliament.

Video of Taliban Firefight in Kabul and Its Aftermath
By J. DAVID GOODMAN The New York Times April 16, 2012, 10:54 am
Afghan security forces retook a building from Taliban fighters after a violent attack that shook the center of capital over the weekend and into Monday.
As my colleague Alissa J. Rubin reports, Afghan forces on Monday ended a complex attack by Taliban fighters in the heart of Kabul and the main cities of three provinces, retaking a building in the capital that had been used as a base of operations.
Reporters were invited into the partly constructed building on Monday where they were allowed to take photographs and video of the area where the fighters had been holed up in what appeared to have been a suicide mission.
A BBC correspondent reported from inside the building, shooting video images of the high vantage attained by the Taliban militants, who held the building for hours. Visible on the floor were discarded casings as well as what appeared to be unexploded grenades. Omar Sobhani of Reuters snapped a graphic image of one of the dead bodies left in place as it was inspected by Afghan security forces.
In a post on his official Web site on Monday, President Hamid Karzai praised the work of the Afghan National Security troops who did most of the fighting with only some assistance from NATO forces. But he also criticized Afghan intelligence services and “especially NATO” for what he said were intelligence failures that allowed the Taliban to penetrate a tight security cordon in the most heavily guarded area of the capital:
Condemning the attacks in the strongest possible terms, the president commended the valor and the devotion demonstrated by the ANSF forces in quickly reacting and eliminating the terrorists. “Afghan security forces proudly displayed their ability which was itself an assurance to the people that they are capable of protecting their country.”
The president also praised the security forces for the caution and the care they exercised in protecting of and preventing any further harm to civilians and for a relatively quick control of the situation.
President Karzai described the infiltration by the suicide terrorists to Kabul and other provinces an “intelligence failure for us and especially NATO,” calling for a full investigation.
An Al Jazeera report on Sunday captured some of the intensity of fighting in the capital, which occurred near the hotel where its reporters were staying and forced those inside to seek shelter in the hotel’s basement.
The private television channel Tolo posted video from Sunday of the booming blasts and gunfire that characterized the attacks. Mixed in are the sounds of camera clicks and footage of journalists scurrying from the areas of heavy fighting.
Below is video said to have been shot by Tolo on Monday, with Afghan soldiers on the roof of the partially constructed building:

As Afghan Smoke Clears, Suspicion Falls On Haqqani Network
April 16, 2012 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
As the guns fell silent and Afghans returned to the streets in the capital and other cities targeted in daring weekend attacks by militants, Afghan officials were pointing a finger of suspicion at the Pakistan-based Haqqani network.
The seemingly coordinated incidents, in Kabul and three eastern provinces, killed at least 11 bystanders and security forces and resulted in the death of more than 30 attackers, officials said.
Targets in the capital included the British and German embassies, prominent hotels frequented by Westerners, NATO's headquarters, and the Afghan parliament.
In the incidents in the provinces, the attacks appeared aimed at Afghan security forces and infrastructure.
The day after the attacks were launched, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said they represented an intelligence failure on the part of both Afghan and "especially NATO forces."
Tracking Down The Culprits
Interior Minister Besmillah Mohammadi said a militant arrested by Afghan police has confessed that the Haqqani network -- which has reported links to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and is thought to have been involved in the assassination in September of High Peace Council head and former Afghan President Burnahuddin Rabbani -- launched the attacks.
The Haqqani network is also thought to have been complicit in a June attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul in which 12 people were killed.
In October, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Congress that she and other U.S. officials had urged Pakistan's civilian and military leadership during a recent visit to "join us in squeezing the Haqqani network from both sides of the border and in closing safe havens."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on April 16 that he "condemn[s] these attacks in the strongest possibility terms" and adding that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) was "monitoring the situation."
"We need to strengthen the capacity of counterterrorism efforts and of Afghan national security," Ban said. "These issues will be discussed in detail at the forthcoming NATO summit in Chicago in May. The UN remains committed in supporting the efforts of the government to consolidate peace and democracy."
Cities Under Siege
In Kabul, a battle lasting around 17 hours came to an end in the early hours of April 16 after raids on militant positions in the Afghan capital involving NATO helicopters.
The militants' assaults in the capital included the use of rockets and mortars as well as suicide bombers.
Afghan government forces say they took control of Kabul's Shirpoor and Darulaman districts early on April 16 -- the last areas of fighting.
The Afghan Interior Ministry says that, in all, 36 militants were killed, along with eight members of the government's security forces and three civilians.
Afghan General Mohammad Ayub Salangi, the Kabul security commander, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that the raid early on April 16 saved dozens of civilians who were trapped in a building seized by militants.
"The situation has returned to normal in this area," Salangi said of the area of Darulaman. "The last remnants of the insurgents resisting in a building were killed. The good news for us is that about 35 people -- including workers and a woman who were stuck inside the building -- were saved unharmed. Only the woman was injured, and she was taken to the hospital. About five attackers were killed [there]."
The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attacks, calling it the start of their spring offensive, saying they had help from allied militant groups.
Kabul residents have expressed shock at how dozens of armed insurgents managed to infiltrate the heavily fortified capital.
Officials of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were quoted late on April 15 as saying Afghan forces had handled the response to the Kabul attacks on their own.
But some Western observers say the use of NATO helicopters in the final assault raises questions about whether Afghan security forces will be able to handle a similar battle without NATO support after the scheduled withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, BBC, AFP, dpa, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, and RFE/RL correspondent Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels

Afghanistan attacks seem intended to humiliate
Teams of militants attack major symbols of Afghan and foreign power, but the number of casualties is relatively low.
Los Angeles Times By Aimal Yaqubi and Mark Magnier April 15, 2012
KABUL, Afghanistan - The brazen and well-coordinated attacks by insurgents against four embassies and other key sites in the heart of Afghanistan's capital were aimed less at inflicting high numbers of casualties, analysts said, than at humiliating the government and its foreign allies as Afghan forces take increasing responsibility for protecting their own homeland.
Taking positions on high-rise construction sites, attackers on Sunday rained down rocket-propelled grenades, bullets and fear on Kabul, targeting major symbols of Afghan and foreign power, including the U.S., British, German and Russian embassies and NATO headquarters. Other teams of militants struck airfields and police stations in three eastern provinces and attempted to assassinate one of the country's two vice presidents.
About 20 insurgents were killed in the attacks, which injured at least 15 police officers and nine civilians, government officials said. The Taliban took responsibility for the day's mayhem, calling it part of a spring offensive, though its claim could not be verified.
Though aimed at a wider range of targets, the attacks were reminiscent of a daylong militant assault in September on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters, with insurgents once again sending the message that they could strike at will. The militants also showed the limits of allied and Afghan intelligence by infiltrating neighborhoods dotted with spies, checkpoints and protective defenses.
"Knowing that foreigners lack the will to remain in Afghanistan, their intent is to show that Afghan forces are unable to effectively fight the Taliban after the foreign withdrawal," said Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University. "The Taliban's operating here at both physical and psychological levels."
The dramatic assault, analysts said, was also meant to signal to ordinary Afghans that they should align with the Taliban or risk ending up on the losing side when foreign troops complete their withdrawal, scheduled for 2014.
In addition, the assault could serve to undermine the peace process initiated by Washington by strengthening the hand of Taliban hard-liners; put greater pressure on allies that are increasingly weary of the war's cost in money and lost lives; and feed the impression that the eventual exodus of Western troops will be a defeat, not an honorable and voluntary departure.
"We're only going to see an increase in these attacks," said Dipankar Banerjee, founding director of New Delhi's Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, a think tank. "It helps [the militants] ensure political dominance in the new order as they slowly take over."
Afghan and U.S. officials offered a different perspective on Sunday's events, arguing that they showed Afghan forces were increasingly able to take over security from their North Atlantic Treaty Organization counterparts, having met and beat back attacks in three parts of the city largely without the alliance's help.
The capability of Afghan forces in fighting insurgents was "proven today by their professional and highly effective response in restoring order," said a statement from the U.S. Embassy, which was in lockdown status during the attacks and could account for all personnel.
The praise of Afghan forces was echoed by Afghanistan's Interior Ministry and Gen. John Allen, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, who said in a statement that the resolute Afghan response showed that the country's sovereignty and legitimate governance were not in peril.
The attacks were launched shortly after noon with a series of explosions in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood, which houses diplomatic missions and NATO headquarters. Other insurgent teams fanned out, targeting parliament from the upper floors of a nearby building and attempting unsuccessfully to assassinate Vice President Mohammad Karim Khalili.
The attacks spread fear throughout Kabul.
"I am on the top roof of parliament building," said Mohammad Nahem Lalai Hameedzai, a lawmaker from southern Kandahar, by telephone. "The attack on parliament is an attack on Afghanistan and all its people."
Afghanistan's Information Ministry said a minivan filled with explosives along Parliament Road was intercepted and defused by Afghan security forces. Another team of attackers entered a building near the British Training Center, it said, mounting an attack from there.
In a further flexing of their muscles, the attackers also struck airfields, police headquarters and reconstruction facilities in eastern Nangarhar, Lowgar and Paktia provinces.
Two insurgents captured by authorities reportedly said they were with the Haqqani network, a group based out of North Waziristan in neighboring Pakistan's tribal areas that is distinct from but sometimes cooperates with the Taliban.
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker had his own reason for doubting the Taliban's claim of responsibility in an interview Sunday with CNN's Candy Crowley. "Frankly, I don't think the Taliban is good enough" to pull off such an attack, he said.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for attacks in the past it didn't commit as part of its propaganda war. If it turns out the assaults were carried out by the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, it could further strain relations between the United States and Pakistan.
Republican Sen. John McCain, meanwhile, said Sunday's attacks reflected the risk of the drive to reduce the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.
"Every time the president announced another withdrawal, his military commander said it increases the risk," he told CBS' Bob Schieffer. "That's what we're seeing here."
mark.magnier@latimes.com
Special correspondent Yaqubi reported from Kabul and Times staff writer Magnier from New Delhi. Staff writer Matea Gold in Washington contributed to this report.

Taliban paid 'protection money' by Afghan government
The Taliban leadership has arrested its former top military chief and two senior commanders over claims that they accepted they "vast sums" of cash and properties from the Afghan government.
By Dean Nelson, South Asia Editor, and Ben Farmer in Kabul 16 Apr 2012 The Telegraph (UK)
The money was allegedly paid to the Taliban commanders to protect Kabul and Nato supply convoys.
Mullah Ismail, who until last year was the head of the Taliban's ruling Military Commission and remains one of its most powerful members, was arrested earlier this month along with Mullah Ahad Agha, an insurgent commander in Ismail's Zabul province, and Mullah Ghulam Hassan, a former intelligence minister and commander in Ghazni province.
Their arrests have sent shock waves throughout the Taliban's senior leadership amid militant fears that the corruption which has tainted the Karzai government is now dividing their own ranks.
Leading analysts said their arrests have created a climate of paranoia within the Taliban movement and suspicion that recent talks between representatives of their leader, Mullah Omar, and the United States in Doha may have been influenced by these payments.
A 2010 Congressional investigation into Pentagon contracts worth more than $2 billion to supply American troops in Afghanistan found much of the money had been paid to Taliban commanders in bribes for protection.
The three military leaders are widely believed to have accepted payments in exchange for holding meetings with Afghanistan's High Peace Council, but senior analysts said the controversy centres on Taliban corruption.
Michael Semple, a leading expert on the Taliban and former deputy EU representative in Afghanistan, said the arrests will make the movement's leadership more wary of returning to talks with the Americans and other western mediators.
"The Taliban has been shaken by finding that the former head of its Military Commission received unauthorised funds from Kabul. The commander's apparent success in pocketing large sums of money and acquiring property sounds like a protection scam, with the leadership upset that the resources did not go into their coffers," he said.
"It illustrates the huge challenge that any movement has in maintaining discipline and honesty during a protracted and clandestine struggle when there is a lot of money sloshing around. It has made the Taliban strangely nervous – because it was something out of their control. Not directly impacted on Doha but will make them more paranoid," he added.
Mullah Ismail had been moved aside as leader of the Taliban's Military Commission in favour of Abdul Qayyum Zakir last year in a reorganisation.
His declining influence was highlighted last August when he was kidnapped and beaten up by another commander, Baz Mohammad, in a dispute over funding.
The movement's military leadership was forced to intervene to settle the dispute, which caused resentment among supporters in the powerful Noorzai Pashtun tribe.

Indonesian journalists return home after surviving Kabul ambush
JAKARTA, April 16 (Xinhua) -- Four Indonesian journalists who survived a recent ambush by Taliban militia in Kabul, Afghanistan were scheduled to return to Indonesia on Monday, a senior official at the foreign ministry said here Monday.
The journalists were in Kabul to provide mass communication training to officials of Afghanistan anti-narcotics agency under the Colombo Plan project aimed at enhancing cooperation between Indonesia and Afghanistan.
"The Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa spoke to one of them through telephone this morning. All of them were in good condition and continue to coordinate with our embassy in Kabul," Tene said.
He said that they were in a hotel near the embassy.
The ambush, including suicide attacks by Taliban militias against government and facilities of international troops stationed in Kabul on Sunday lasted 18 hours.
By Monday. security forces managed to get the situation under control A total of 32 Taliban militiamen were died and one was arrested, reports said.

The U.S. Spends $14K Per Afghan Troop Per Year, But Each Earns $1,872
By Yochi J. Dreazen Apr 16 2012, 8:45 AM ET The Atlantic
The surprising finances of Afghanistan's police and army, for which the U.S. bears virtually all costs.
The Obama administration hopes to wind down the long Afghan war by shifting responsibility for securing the country to Afghanistan's nascent army and national police. One thing's for certain: It won't be cheap.
​The overall U.S. mission in Afghanistan is already shifting from direct combat to training and mentoring the Afghan forces, which are slated to grow to 352,000 by the end of 2012. Boosting the numbers of capable Afghan forces would carry both human and financial benefits for the U.S, reducing the likelihood of American battlefield casualties and allowing the withdrawal of U.S. troops costing a whopping $1 million each per year to station there.
​Still, a close look at U.S. military statistics shows that Afghan soldiers and police officers are far more expensive than you'd expect. They are paid an average of just $1,872 a year, but the overall cost of training and fielding a police officer is roughly $30,000 per year, while the cost of each soldier is nearly $46,000 per year. the United States bears virtually all of those costs, adding up to more than $3.5 billion a year.
​The financial breakdown is a different way of looking at the training push, which usually makes the news solely because of the rising numbers of so-called "green on blue" incidents of Afghan troops killing their U.S. or NATO counterparts.
​A leaked report prepared last year for the NATO command in Kabul said that Afghan soldiers and police officers attacked Western troops at least 26 times between May 2007 and May 2011, killing approximately 58 U.S. and NATO troops. The pace of such attacks has been steadily increasing since 2009, the report found. So far this year, at least 17 more NATO troops have died at the hands of Afghan security personnel, making those attacks the second leading cause of coalition fatalities in 2012.
U.S. officials hope that stepping up their efforts to vet and monitor Afghan security personnel will gradually weed out troops with extremist tendencies or affinities for the Taliban.
The surprisingly high costs of supporting the overall Afghan security force, by contrast, won't be coming down any time soon. What accounts for those expenses, which exceed by amount of money actually paid to the Afghan troops by 30-to-1 and 45-to-1.
Military statistics show that many of the Afghans' expenses mirror costs incurred by the U.S. and its NATO allies: building new bases, maintaining existing ones, and moving gas, fuel and other supplies across a large country with few paved or safe roads.
Consider the Afghan army, many of whose 170,000 soldiers make roughly $156 per month. The Afghan government - mostly using funds from the U.S. - spends $2,437,200,000 per year equipping its overall force, or $14,336 per soldier. Those expenses alone - which go toward purchasing aircraft, vehicles, weapons, body armor and other equipment - are eight times as high as the total yearly salary of the average soldier.
NATO has to expend similarly large sums for equipping its own forces, but other expenses reflect the unique challenges of training and educating a largely illiterate force of young Afghans, many of whom have rarely traveled beyond their home village. The Afghan government devotes $844,000,000 to training its army, or $4,965 per soldier. That is more than double each soldier's salary.
​To be fair, Afghan troops are paying other, grimmer costs that far exceed those of their U.S. allies. At least 5,681 Afghan soldiers and police officers have been killed in the line of duty between 2007 and 2011, according to data collected by the Brookings Institution. That is more than double the 2,325 NATO troops killed over the same time period and more than triple the number of U.S. war dead during those years.
​Those casualties - and the financial costs of supporting the Afghan troops doing the fighting and dying - are nevertheless crucial to U.S. hopes of gradually withdrawing from the country. A report last year by the Center for a New American Security concluded that the war "may ultimately be won or lost by the ability of [Afghan security forces] to assume leadership in this counterinsurgency fight."
​Washington is planning to reduce the overall size of the Afghan forces to about 230,000 after U.S. and NATO forces depart the country at the end of 2014. That would cut NATO's out-of-pocket expenses for the Afghan forces from roughly $7 billion to roughly $4.1 billion annaully. The U.S. is likely to pay about $2.5 billion of those costs for the indefinite future.
​Those ongoing expenses reinforce a point that American policymakers and the war-weary public have long known about the Afghan war: No aspect of it, in either human or financial terms, comes cheap.

Government to Crack Down on Weapon-Smuggling: Sediqi
TOLOnews.com Sunday, 15 April 2012
Criminal groups smuggling weapons will be tracked down and heavily penalised, spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs Sediq Sediqi said Sunday.
As a wave of insurgent attacks brought Afghanistan's capital Kabul to a standstill, Sediqi said criminal acts had increased in the country and blamed the porous borders for allowing weapons to enter easily.
"Open borders are the main cause of insecurity in Afghanistan," he said.
He vowed the government would crack down on those found responsible.
"This year, we will arrest criminals and penalise them harshly," he said.
Some experts believe that the Afghan government is capable of countering the arms smuggling into the country, but it needs tougher measures.
"Our borders are open - they can easily import weapons from Iran and Pakistan," political analyst General Wahed Taqat said.
"A strong government and security is essential to prevent the smuggling of weapons."
More than 50 people carrying illegal weapons were arrested in the past week, the Interior Ministry said in a statement Sunday.

www.afghanistannewscenter.com (http://www.afghanistannewscenter.com)