"Their Boldest And Most Ambitious Assault"

KABUL118MajifSaeedi:AFP:Getty

The Taliban assaulted a hotel and shopping mall as well as government buildings yesterday. Juan Cole ventures as to why:

The attack seems likely to have aimed at making Karzai look weak and not in control on the eve of his attendance at the upcoming London international conference on Afghanistan. It may also have been a reply to Karzai's appointment of about half the ministers on the way to forming a new government.

Watching the BBC video of the attack was indeed alarming. If suicide bombers managed to create chaos within blocks of the White House and the government was unable to stop them, we'd have a parallel. Of course, Afghanistan is not America. And Gates was unfazed. One reader even saw the attack as containing seeds of good news:

The Taliban went into Kabul heavy, with a dozen militants, plenty of explosives and weapons, elaborate plans, and visions of the Mumbai debacle.  They failed, utterly, and in view of the capital's population.  The dead militants outnumbered their victims.  And most hearteningly, they were thwarted and then destroyed not by westerners, but by Afghan security forces.  This should be a major morale-builder for the Afghans, and a bright, if still distant, point of light at the end of the tunnel for an eventual reduction in western forces.

(Photo: Afghan security forces look over a building where Taliban fighters were located after clashes between Taliban-linked militants and security forces in a market on January 18, 2010 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Taliban militants launched multiple suicide attacks at key government targets. At least five people were killed and nearly 40 others wounded in fighting between Taliban militants and security forces, the public health ministry said. The death toll did not include four militants who were also killed during the attacks, which lasted more than three hours. President Hamid Karzai had stated that security had been restored to the capital. By Majid Saeedi/Getty Images).