A series of well coordinated attacks by the Taliban led to shock and awe in the high security zone of Kabul. Amid insinuations from foreign military commanders, emphasising that the Taliban had no capacity to disrupt the well guarded city’s way of life, the rockets appeared to be awesome. Reportedly, the brunt of incursion was directed against the Diplomatic Enclave, especially the US, the UK and German Embassies as well as Nato headquarters and bases.

As the firing got intense, a loudspeaker from the US Embassy howled: “Duck and cover. Move away from the windows." Parliament also bore the terrible onslaught and President Hamid Karzai had to abandon his palace to seek security of the foreign troops. The bloody drama went on for about 18 hours before the Afghan forces claimed to have killed about a 100 assailants conducting the raid. Likewise, the countries whose Embassies got smacked claimed that only minor damages had been done, as did the army commanders.

The Afghans, according to history, stop fighting during the winter season. Following the same tradition, the Taliban went into hiding that encouraged the foreign troops to philosophise about the collapse of their ‘enemy’ in the ongoing counterinsurgency. Bruce Riedel and Michael Edward O'Hanlon, in an article, observed: “The insurgency persists, but if the US doesn’t withdraw prematurely, the Afghan security forces will be able to contain it by 2014.” The American powerbrokers identify their struggle as insurgency, despite being in the hole in this war.

The Taliban, who were once derided for by many segments of local population, have been claiming that they are fighting for the freedom of their homeland from the occupation forces. Since 2006, they have been very helpful to their brethren in many ways. Quite often, the foreign forces had to look the other way to stay peacefully in the area of their deployment. Several reports indicate that sometimes the troops also collaborated with the locals/Taliban in the production and smuggling of opium. Enquiries were ordered against them, but were hushed up.

The Taliban spokesman claimed to have launched the latest attack to avenge the burning of the Holy Quran as well as the crime committed by Sergeant Bales wherein 17 Afghans were killed. Going by their tradition, too many Afghans would have complimented the ‘enemy’ for such a daring break-in. Karzai, however, acknowledged a collective intelligence failure, but was mainly critical of Nato’s reaction when Kabul was under siege.

As the attack ended, it provoked pervasive debate about its purpose. Some see it as the Ides of March, destiny-related, as explained in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Others perceive it as a way to humiliate the US and prove that the Taliban will prevail no matter what.

Senator John McCain considers that the attack highlights the risk of reducing US deployment in Afghanistan, as against Obama’s stand on it. Despite having been a POW in Vietnam, he forgot how the US had to abandon the country. US Ambassador Crocker, who is said to be doing some political manipulation among the Afghans, expressed the feeling that the Taliban could not have staged it by themselves, blaming Haqqani network. However, Secretary Clinton called Foreign Minister Rabbani and urged solidarity between US and Pakistan to meet the emerging threats. Then Defence Secretary Panetta and Chairman JCSC General Dempsey indicated that they had no intelligence reports as to who did the deplorable deed. Against this backdrop, the latest attack underlines the following facets of the war.

First, even after 10 years, the US/Nato is at bay on intelligence collection.

Second, the foreign forces appear to be more conscious of their own security concerns and less about ‘winning the hearts and minds of the locals’.

Third, If history is any guide, the Taliban will win wider support among the Afghans, if they continue their current onslaught against the foreign troops.

Last, foolish tactics, like the burning of the Holy Quran or the massacre in Kandahar, would not frighten the Afghans. It incites religious reaction that would be like a windfall for the Taliban.

The US is in a soup in Afghanistan. It being an election-year, both Republicans and Democrats are in a spin. The machinations of the neocons under George W. Bush have brought the US almost to a point of no return. Since 9/11, the fear-complex has been cultivated by various means to justify the Iraqi misadventure and the Afghan debacle. Now, the US is looking for an exit strategy that is yet to be defined. Having suffered from the war for 10 years, the Afghans are ready to mount pressure for an equitable settlement so that the foreign forces leave. That is why Oalf Caroe, rightly, said: “Unlike other wars, Afghan wars become serious only when they are over.”

n    The writer is former secretary interior.

    Email: imnor@brain.net.pk