WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2011 — Warning of the likelihood of more high-profile attacks like yesterday’s on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul as insurgents grow increasingly desperate, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan declared the attack a military failure as he praised the Afghan security force’s response to the raid.
“Afghan and coalition forces once again defeated an attempt by the insurgents to push back the progress of the Afghan people and their security forces and the government and the progress they are making in Afghanistan,” Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen said today during a news briefing in the Afghan capital.
The attack, Allen added, had “no operational impact whatsoever.”
The United States and its coalition partners “will continue working with our Afghan partners toward transitioning security responsibility throughout the country,” the general said. “They have demonstrated their determination and ability to respond to insurgent attacks and to mitigate the impact of these vicious attacks.”
Allen praised the “courage and ability and fighting spirit” of Afghan forces who “responded quickly and capably, containing the insurgents and systematically eliminating the threat.”
Seven insurgents were killed during clearing operations, in addition to four insurgent suicide bombers.
Allen expressed his condolences for five Afghan national police and 11 Afghan civilians, about half of them children, killed in the attack, and another 19 Afghan civilians who were wounded. A small number of coalition forces were injured, but none fatally, he reported.
Citing the complexity of the attack and the way it was executed, Allen pointed to the Haqqani network as the likely source.
“The Haqqanis have been attacking Kabul for a long time, because Kabul for so much of this country represents, not just the spiritual heartland of this country; it represents the future,” he said.
He noted that the Haqqani network has been behind many of the high-profile attacks on Kabul, targeting Afghan government figures and institutions and killing some 200 people.
Allen said talks will continue to pressure neighboring Pakistan to crack down harder on insurgents crossing the border into Afghanistan. “We seek to have the Pakistani government place greater pressure on the Haqqani network, to keep them on the east side of the border, to keep them in Pakistan so we can prevent these kind of … high-profile attacks,” he said.
In the meantime, Allen warned that more insurgent attacks are likely to follow.
“This is not the first such attack by the insurgents, and we do not expect that it will be the last,” he said. “The insurgents are on the defensive. They are losing territory. They are losing support. They are losing the confidence in their leaders who choose to give orders from the comfort of foreign lands.”
To compensate, he said the insurgents use high-profile attacks in an attempt to frighten the Afghan people into submission.
“It is not working, and it will not work,” Allen said. “The insurgents will not win. They will lose. We will prevail.”
Ambassador Simon Gass, the U.S. senior civilian representative to Afghanistan, said such attacks backfire for the insurgents because they reveal their brutality and wanton disregard for human life.
“The real effect of these attacks is to remind the Afghan people why they are so determined against an insurgency that deliberately kills innocent men, women and children,” Gass said.
Allen said the response to the Kabul attack demonstrated the competency of Afghan security forces who worked methodically to clear a 16-story building opposite the embassy in darkness and inclement weather while taking precautions to prevent collateral damage.
What the Afghan people won’t know, Allen said, is how many attacks Afghan security forces, working in partnership with coalition forces, have been able to prevent as they aggressively go after enemy networks.
“Afghan national security forces are achieving a significant capability to deal with the insurgency,” he said. “If an Afghan citizen had the chance to see in action these great high-end units that have been developed over the last several years [that] are continuing to become more professional by the day, I think they would be proud.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)