- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2008

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan soldiers took up positions today in districts of the capital where government officials and foreigners live, while security officers hunted for suspects in the attempted assassination of President Hamid Karzai.

About 100 people were rounded up for questioning about the attack that killed three people and wounded eight during a government celebration yesterday, an Afghan intelligence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to journalists.

The Defense Ministry spokesman, Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, confirmed people had been detained but didn’t say how many. He said some of those questioned had already been freed.

The ability of militants to get close enough to fire rockets and automatic rifles at a grandstand holding Karzai and foreign dignitaries underscored the fragility of Afghanistan’s government as it fights the former ruling Taliban movement and allied insurgents.

“The terrorist threat is real, it is deadly, and defeating this enemy has to be a top priority of the United States, of the Afghan government, of the Iraqi government, and the NATO alliance,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said today.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the attack demonstrated again that the Taliban “will use the most extreme violence to oppose Afghanistan’s freedom and democratic development.”

The Taliban claimed its fighters staged the assault. Three of the attackers were killed, Karzai’s government said, but the Taliban said three other insurgents got away.

The U.N. Security Council strongly condemned the attack, saying no terrorist act can reverse the path toward peace and democracy in Afghanistan.

The council said the Taliban’s claim of responsibility “underlined the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of this reprehensible act of terrorism to justice.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the attack showed Karzai’s administration is under a strong threat.

Afghanistan has “determined enemies who will do anything to disrupt the democratic progress that the Afghan people have made,” Rice said after meeting with the new United Nations envoy to Afghanistan, Kai Eide of Norway. Eide had no comment about the attack.

Yesterday’s lapse brought questions about the readiness of Karzai’s government to follow up on its demand for the expanding Afghan police and army to take greater control of security. U.S. and NATO-led troops provide security in much of the country now.

But the White House defended efforts by Afghan forces.

“I think that they need to be praised for what they’ve been able to accomplish so far, and they need to be helped, in order to get to where they need to be,” Perino said. “And we’re committed to being there. … They’ve accomplished a lot.”

Perino also said it was unfair to criticize Afghan security forces because insurgents had been able to stage an attack.

“When it comes to dealing with terrorists like the Taliban or al-Qaeda, they just have to have even a semblance — it has to look like they had a little bit of an impact for everyone to say that they had a big victory,” she said. “Look, we have to be right every single time in order to prevent terrorist attacks. It is damn hard work.”

Noting Karzai and Bush talk every other week, Perino predicted they would soon discuss the attack.

The assassination attempt came during a live broadcast of a ceremony marking the Afghan victory over the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. That was sure to bring a sense of unease in Kabul, which has been spared the worst of the violence as fighting escalated between the Taliban and international troops.

In a series of battles yesterday and today, Afghan and foreign troops supported by airstrikes killed 23 militants and wounded 20, officials said. No casualties were reported for the Afghan and international forces.

One of the biggest fights came in eastern Afghanistan, where U.S. and Afghan troops fought off coordinated insurgent attacks today, leaving a dozen militants dead and a dozen more wounded, the U.S. military said.

A joint force also clashed with militants in the Qarabagh district of Ghazni province today, killing six Taliban fighters dead and wounding eight, said Zia Wali, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

More than 1,000 people, mostly militants, have been killed in insurgency-related violence in Afghanistan this year, according to an Associated Press tally of figures from Afghan and Western officials. About 8,000 died last year.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide