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In Afghanistan, Karzai Blames NATO Intelligence After Insurgent Attacks

April 16, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JEFFREY BROWN: The guns fell silent today in the capital city of Afghanistan as a major assault by militants came to an end. With that, questions and some recriminations began.

The assault in Kabul finally ended early today after 18 hours. Afghan forces and coalition helicopters overpowered the remaining insurgents.

GEN. MOHAMMAD ZAHIR, Kabul Police (through translator): Fortunately, they were defeated quickly. The situation is under the control of Kabul’s police now. There is no problem.

JEFFREY BROWN: On Sunday, the attackers had taken over a building under construction and another site. From there, they rained gunfire, grenades and rockets across a part of the city that houses foreign embassies, the presidential palace, and the parliament.

But Afghan lawmakers praised the way their troops fought back.

SHUKRIA BARAKZAI, member of Parliament: I am proud about my great brothers and their response and our security forces back to the enemy of the country. Of course, it takes very long, which is we were worried about it. But, at the beginning, we succeed. And we got back our dignity.

JEFFREY BROWN: In all, the Kabul fighting left 36 insurgents, eight policemen and three civilians dead. It was the worst attack on the Afghan capital since last September, when the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters became targets.

In Washington today, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said these new attacks had achieved nothing.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON PANETTA: There were no tactical gains here. These are isolated attacks that are done for symbolic purposes. And they have not regained any territory. The Afghan army and police did a great job of reacting to these attacks. They quickly restored order. They quickly restored security in those areas. And it gave us an indication that they really are improving in terms of their capability to provide security.

JEFFREY BROWN: Like Afghan officials, Panetta blamed the Haqqani Network for Sunday’s attacks on Kabul and several eastern cities. The group has some 10,000 fighters and is based on the Afghan-Pakistan border with ties to both the Taliban and al-Qaida.

Today, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called for an investigation into how the militants had again infiltrated Afghan cities. He blamed what he called — quote — “an intelligence failure for us and especially NATO.”

But a Pentagon spokesman said it’s an unfair standard to expect precise intelligence about every planned attack. And Secretary Panetta suggested U.S. officials knew something was coming, if not precisely what or when.

LEON PANETTA: We had received a great deal of intelligence indicating that the Haqqanis were planning these kinds of attacks. And obviously we — we’re always concerned about the attacks that take place. They reflect that the Taliban is resilient, that they remain determined.

JEFFREY BROWN: In the end, the attacks highlighted the security challenges one month before a NATO summit on plans for U.S. and NATO forces to withdraw from Afghanistan into 2014.