Q&A: Taliban Attacks ‘Work Against the Insurgents’ in Afghanistan

BY Larisa Epatko  May 18, 2010 at 3:34 PM EDT


Bombing aftermath in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo by Getty Images

The Taliban took responsibility for a suicide attack on a NATO convoy in Kabul on Tuesday that killed 18 people, including five American service members and one from Canada.

A suicide bomber drove a minibus filled with explosives into the convoy, which was transporting personnel between military compounds, during morning rush hour on Dar-ul-Aman Road in the southern part of Afghanistan’s capital city. Afghan civilians also died in the fiery blast and at least 47 others were wounded.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told the Associated Press by telephone that the bomber, a Kabul man, drove a vehicle packed with 1,650 pounds (750 kilograms) of explosives.

Such attacks work against the Taliban since they strengthen the resolve of the military and eat away at support within the Afghan population when civilians are killed, according to Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, public affairs officer to the commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. ISAF is assisting the Afghan government in investigating the bombing.

The NewsHour spoke to Sholtis on Tuesday to learn more:

This incident has been described as the deadliest attack on NATO in Kabul since September, and since then security measures have been tightened. Can you describe the security measures undertaken recently?

We don’t discuss specific security measures, but in general they are the kinds of things you would expect to see: stepped-up intelligence efforts, heightened security postures at key facilities, new procedures at checkpoints, etc. Afghan security forces retain responsibility for security in Kabul with some assistance from ISAF, and by and large they do a good job.

One of the disadvantages of fighting an insurgency is that it is difficult to prove — and the public seldom pays much attention to — what violence did not happen because of government efforts. But Afghan security forces — aided by joint operations in the districts that feed attacks in Kabul — have foiled a number of bomb plots and otherwise disrupted insurgent operations over the past several months.

Does this attack tell you anything new about the Taliban’s tactics?

We’re still analyzing the attack, but at this point it does not indicate any change in tactics. Although insurgents hope to demonstrate with these attacks that they are powerful and in control, the reality is that their tactics are the refuge of the desperate: random acts of indiscriminate violence that in the end will do more to weaken support for the insurgent cause among the Afghan people.

How does the military respond after an attack such as this?

Our first and most important response is to care for those who are wounded and secure the area to prevent any secondary attacks aimed at responders. We follow that with an investigation to learn what we can about the circumstances of the attack and the attackers themselves.

Obviously, we follow any intelligence that leads us back to the attackers, and we adjust our own procedures if necessary to minimize the chance of future attacks.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

These events are tragic, and every loss of a coalition comrade or an Afghan partner affects us. But the cumulative effects of attacks like this one often work against the insurgents. We come back to the fight with strengthened resolve and with the support of an international community and increasing numbers of Afghans who are appalled and angered by the insurgents’ actions.