Practice, Cashews, and Friends: How the Taliban Pulled Off Its Spring Offensive

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The Taliban's brazen 18-hour offensive is over and now NATO and Afghan officials are scrambling to figure out how the insurgency struck at the heart of Afghanistan's capital.

All told, the offensive claimed the lives of 36 insurgents, eight policemen and three civilians, across multiple targets throughout Kabul and other Afghan cities. Here's the latest on how the sophisticated attack was carried out, from battleground evidence and Taliban statements.

Planning It's safe to say the Taliban did their homework on this one. A Taliban spokesman speaking to Reuters says the insurgents rehearsed the attacks for months, built "small military-style models" and pre-positioned their weapons ahead of the attack."Our military experts sketched maps of the targets and also created a mock-up of them where fighters carried out practice before carrying out the large-scale operations in four provinces," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters' Hamid Shalizi. "The fighters also learned how to enter their targets and hold them." He said heavy duty machine guns, rocket grenades and ammunition were planted in advance of the attacks and the suicide squad was handpicked from the best-trained fighters. "Ordinary fighters can't obviously carry out these important missions," he said. "The fighters who were assigned for this mission received special training on how to use heavy machine guns, suicide bomb vests and other tactics."Once everything was in place, the fighters were able to occupy a perch in a high-rise construction site (pictured above) and fire on the city at will

"Expensive snacks" The siege, which kept kept residents of Kabul awake with the sounds of gunfire and explosions throughout the night, required a great deal of endurance. According to police general Khalil Momenzada, speaking with The Guardian, the insurgents packed snacks to sustain them. "Empty water bottles and cartons of cream lay near a grenade and a tangle of wires," notes the report by Emma Graham-Harrison. "Look at their expensive snacks," the police general said, "pointing at a half-eaten bag of cashews that lay next to shattered teacups and an upended thermos." No sign of any leftover almonds yet, which were a food staple of the Mumbai attackers in 2008.
The Haqqani Network? Already, one of the militants captured in the attacks confessed that the Pakistan-based Haqqani network was responsible for helping carry out the attack, reports the Associated Press. "One terrorist who was arrested in Nangarhar province confessed, saying 'It was the Haqqani network that launched these attacks,'" Afghanistan's Interior minister said. The network is led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and functions largely in Afghanistan's eastern border. Giving credence to the claim,  Reuters says bystanders identified the fighters as Pakistanis "A Haqqani connection is a possibility, but still too early to determine for sure," a NATO spokesman told the AP. "We will look strongly at that."


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