A car bomb explosion in Kandahar, Afghanistan, killed five people Monday, among them three employees of the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, which is located in a compound near where the explosion took place.
The attack was carried out by at least four insurgents, one of whom rammed a truck filled with explosives into a checkpoint and three of whom raided a nearby building and engaged Afghan and NATO troops in a six-hour firefight. The UNHCR office was heavily damaged in the explosion.
The attack follows on the heels of a Saturday insurgent strike on an armored NATO bus that killed 17 people, including eight civilian employees of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF. It was one of the deadliest attacks on NATO personnel in the decade-long war.
A spokesman for NATO said the recent spate of high-profile attacks did not spell a growing insurgency. According to the Associated Press,
“Despite the insurgency’s failures this past year, it remains capable and, enabled by safe havens in Pakistan, continues to contest (Afghan and NATO) progress in some parts of the country,” German Brig Gen. Carsten Jacobson, a coalition spokesman in Afghanistan told reporters in Kabul.
But Jacobson also said the coalition and its Afghan partners had made significant gains against the Taliban and that incidents such as the bombing in Kandahar were not indicative of the insurgents strengthening their reach.
Jean MacKenzie of GlobalPost reported on how the recent attacks are raising questions among some about the administration’s positive take on the war in Afghanistan:
>The U.S. military persists in monitoring discrete, quantitative metrics such as insurgent body counts, numbers of operations conducted, and deadly attacks by insurgents, which fail to give a complete picture of the state of play, according to Joshua Foust, a fellow at the American Security project and an expert on security issues in Afghanistan and Central Asia, she wrote.
The Pakistan-based Haqqani network has been implicated in a series of attacks on foreign forces, and is being considered as a possible culprit in the investigation into the Saturday bombing.
Last month Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency has supported the Haqqani network. During a trip through Kabul and Islamabad last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton laid out a plan that would pave the way for the ISI to help broker negotiations, a strategy labeled “Fight, Talk, Build.” According to the New York Times, the approach represents a choice between two bad options: “In short, the United States is in the position of having to rely heavily on the ISI to help broker a deal with the same group of militants that leaders in Washington say the spy agency is financing and supporting.”
NATO troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan in 2014, handing over full security responsibility to Afghan troops.