Karzai blames Nato for attacks
Kabul - Afghan President Hamid Karzai Monday blamed intelligence failures, particularly on the part of Nato forces supporting his government, for the worst coordinated insurgent attacks in 10 years of war.
Karzai's accusation came after an unprecedented 18-hour assault by squads of Taliban militants, some disguised as women in burqas, on government offices, embassies and foreign bases in Kabul and neighbouring provinces.
"The terrorists' infiltration in Kabul and other provinces is an intelligence failure for us and especially for Nato and should be seriously investigated," Karzai said in a statement.
Explosions and gunfire rocked the Afghan capital on Sunday and overnight before Afghan forces regained control, heightening fears for the future of the vulnerable nation as Nato prepares to withdraw its 130 000 troops.
The Western alliance, which is committed to pulling out by the end of 2014 whatever happens militarily, put a positive spin on the attacks, hailing the performance of Afghan security forces.
Karzai also praised the rapid response by Afghan security forces, saying it "proved to the people that they can defend their country successfully".
But his laying of the major share of the blame on troops whose home countries are already tired of the long war and its enormous cost, is unlikely to go down well with his allies.
The attacks in Kabul and neighbouring provinces killed 11 members of the security forces and four civilians and wounded 32 civilians and around 42 security personnel, Karzai said.
Thirty-six insurgents were also killed, the interior ministry said.
"That they did manage to pull off simultaneous complex attacks shows quite a level of sophistication in preventing detection... so that would be a failure in intelligence," said Martine van Bijlert of the Afghanistan Analysts' Network.
"But having said that, in a big bustling city like Kabul it is incredibly difficult to stop this type of attack."
Afghan security forces took the lead in countering the insurgents, who were finally routed early on Monday, but a spokesperson for Nato forces said they had provided air support in response to requests from the Afghans.
"I am enormously proud of how quickly Afghan security forces responded to [the] attacks in Kabul," said General John Allen, commander of Nato's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
US Ambassador Ryan Crocker said the ability of Afghan forces to respond to the attacks was a "clear sign of progress", while ISAF labelled the attacks "largely ineffective".
However, the fact that so many militants managed to make it through Kabul's so-called "Ring of Steel" checkpoints and attack high-value targets was a propaganda coup for the Taliban.
A Western diplomat with security expertise told AFP: "I don't share at all the optimism of Nato or the Americans.
"It's true that they did it better than in the past - there is progress but still, to build up so many attacks and being able to launch them simultaneously demonstrates clearly [the Taliban's] ability to strike where and when they want," he said on condition of anonymity.
Nato insisted that the attacks would not influence its plans to withdraw.
"Clearly we still face security challenges," Nato spokesperson Oana Lungescu told a news briefing in Brussels.
"But such attacks don't change the transition strategy, they don't change the goal and they don't change the time line that we all agreed to at the Lisbon summit in November 2010," she said.
The US, British, German and Japanese embassy compounds came under fire as militants attacked the city's diplomatic enclave and tried to storm parliament, sparking a gun battle as lawmakers and bodyguards fired back from the rooftop.
Outside the capital, militants attacked government buildings in Logar province, the airport in Jalalabad, and a police facility in the town of Gardez in Paktya province.
The attacks marked the biggest assault on the capital in 10 years of war in terms of their spread and coordination, observers say.
In September last year Taliban attacks targeting locations including the US embassy and headquarters of foreign troops in Kabul killed at least 14 during a 19-hour siege.
And in August, nine people were killed when suicide bombers attacked the British Council cultural centre.