If the Taliban intended to make a point on the first anniversary of the sacking of our consulate in Benghazi, then they were a day late — literally — and several dollars short. The Taliban used two bombs and a wave of gunfire in their attempt to seize the facility, but instead killed two Afghans and lost seven of their own fighters:
CBS News reports that it’s unclear just how far they got into the facility, but it’s clear that they didn’t last too long wherever they ended up:
Taliban militants set off two suicide bombs in an attack on a U.S. Consulate in western Afghanistan Friday morning, triggering a gun battle with security forces that left at least two Afghans and seven attackers dead.
The U.S. said all its personnel from the consulate in the city of Herat were safe and American forces later moved in to secure the site.
The attack underscored the perilous security situation in Afghanistan, where U.S.-led troops are reducing their presence ahead of a full withdrawal next year.
According to some Afghan officials, the attack in Herat started with the Taliban setting off two bombs — one in an SUV and the other in an explosives-laden small van — while militants on foot opened a firefight with Afghan security forces around the compound in the city, which is 625 miles from Kabul.
But Gen. Rahmatullah Safi, Herat province’s chief of police, told CBS News one of seven militants set off an explosives-laden truck, then the other six tried to enter the consulate. One of them detonated his vest inside the security parameter and the remaining five started battling with security forces and consulate guards, Safi said. The battle lasted an hour, he added.
It was not entirely clear whether any attackers managed to breach the facility itself, but at least two Afghans were killed and several were wounded, said an Afghan official. The seven attackers were all killed, including the suicide bombers, officials said.
This is becoming a pattern in the region, which had been one of the more pacified areas of Afghanistan — before we announced our withdrawal:
Insurgent attacks in Afghanistan are no longer concentrated in the country’s south and east, but also occur with troubling frequency in the north and west, which have been the more peaceful areas in years past. Friday’s assaults came on the heels of two days of celebrations as Afghans of all backgrounds welcomed their nation’s first international soccer championship.
McClatchy notes — coincidentally? — that the pullout has just shifted into “high gear”:
Coalition troops at the German base and an adjacent U.S. camp are packing up and shipping out equipment, trying to decide what to destroy, what to sell and what to give to the local Afghan security forces, trying to orchestrate a safe, orderly final withdrawal even as they dodge the occasional incoming rocket and respond to intelligence reports of bombs along the roads they’re using to truck equipment and people out.
With the U.S.-led coalition’s drawdown shifting into high gear – the American force of 62,000 will be reduced by half by late winter – its efforts to shut down its bases have hit a complicated peak.
Until now, most of the 700 or so bases demolished or turned over to the Afghan government or private land owners have been small and relatively simple, often little more than a perimeter wall of sand-filled boxes.
But now comes the complicated part.
Three quarters of the 100 bases that remain are giants like the sprawling Bagram Airfield north of Kabul, or are considered medium-sized, like the adjacent German and American bases at Kunduz, which held a few thousand troops at one point.
Eventually all that would be left in coalition hands are the nine bases that the U.S.-led forces reportedly are seeking to maintain in a bilateral security agreement with the Afghan government. Negotiations over that deal reportedly are stalled.
This sounds similar to Iraq, where we failed to settle on a continuing American presence when the end of the status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) hit in 2011, despite Iraq’s desire to include us. The Obama administration fumbled those talks, and that was with a government that’s friendlier to the US than Hamid Karzai’s is at the moment. We certainly could use that presence in Iraq now, where we could have secured the western part of the country to keep radical Islamist terrorists from using it as a staging area for their operations in Syria. I wonder what will happen in Afghanistan to make us regret our abandonment of American strategic positioning there, too.