West's Afghan policy in crisis after wave of Taliban attacks
Transition strategy branded 'ridiculous' by local politician after co-ordinated insurgent strikes
TALIBAN insurgents launched a series of co-ordinated attacks across eastern Afghanistan today. In Kabul, the targets included the British and other embassies, the Afghan parliament and the Nato headquarters.
The strikes mark the biggest attack on the Afghan capital for six months and follow renewed pledges by both President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron to withdraw western troops and hand over security to Afghan forces.
The Taliban have admitted responsibility for today's attacks, which included "tens of suicide attackers" striking in the provinces of Logar, Paktia and Nangarhar as well as the capital city. In a statement they called the wave of attacks the start of their "spring offensive" which had been planned for "months".
The level of fatalities was not immediately clear, though several insurgents were reported dead in running street fights.
At the British embassy a guard tower was hit by two rockets and a house used by British diplomats was targeted by rocket-propelled grenades. No British staff were hurt, according to the Foreign Office.
The Russian, German and American embassies were all said to have been attacked. President Hamid Karzai was reportedly under lockdown as insurgents targeted Afghan political buildings.
The BBC's Bilal Sarwary warned that the attacks will have shattered the confidence of those Afghans who believed peace might be possible after the withdrawal of western forces. "How did a large group of heavily armed insurgents, with a huge amount of weapons, manage to get inside Kabul and inside the central district of Wazir Akbar Khan?" he asked.
Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News tweeted: "Typical - Nato seriously claiming insurgents losing ability to mount large-scale attacks on the day they mount their largest scale attacks."
He added: "Nato, British and US will simply continue to lie about the war they are losing in Afghanistan. Today merely the most blatant example."
Thomson also raised the prospect of embassy staff living in fear once Nato forces have left the country: "What for them and ordinary Afghans when the resistance fighters come in future (and they will) and you can no longer call up a couple of Apaches for air support?"
The Guardian's Jonathan Boone reported that Russian embassy guards had "joined in" when they returned fire at insurgents. He asked whether this was the "first time a Russian soldier has fired a shot in anger in Afghanistan since 1989?"
On the ground, high-profile Afghan MP Wazhma Frogh said the attacks highlighted the failure of the west's Afghan policy. "This shows just how ridiculous the transition policy is," she said. "I've never seen a street battle before, but what I saw today was the fragility of these police officers. It really shows how poor police training has been."