At least 17 people died early this morning after suicide bombers attacked the Safi Landmark Hotel in downtown Kabul. One bomber managed to detonate his vest, shaking the city center. This was followed by a firefight that lasted several hours and ended in the deaths of two other would-be bombers. The Taliban claimed responsibility.
The bomb attacks in Kabul come after relatively good news from Helmand province where Afghan and NATO forces had recently driven the Taliban--who had appeared to be getting progressively weaker in the region--out of the key city of Marjah.
Lt. Joe Holstead tweeted: "Insurgents using Mohammed's Birthday and attempting to counter progress in Marjah with attack in Kabul today."
The violence seemed to be specifically targeting Indians and other foreigners staying in Kabul. Nine Indians were killed; some of them were reportedly government officials. India has been an especially longtime foe of the Taliban. It's possible that the attack was aimed not so much at weakening the resolve of NATO and Afghan forces, as it was at damaging the ties between India and Afghanistan, which have become closer under the Karzai government. In a statement, India's foreign minister declared the attacks "barbaric" and said that the Taliban was "desperate to undermine the friendship between India and Afghanistan," a friendship that isn't popular either with the Taliban or, perhaps more importantly, with Pakistan.