Kabul assault handiwork of Haqqanis: Crocker
KABUL (PAN): The US ambassador to Afghanistan on Wednesday blamed the Haqqani Network for the complex attacks in Kabul where militants targeted the NATO headquarters, the US embassy and several Afghan government compounds a day earlier.
"The information available to us is that the attackers like those who carried out the bombing in Maidan Wardak, are part of the Haqqani network. They enjoy safe haven in Northern Waziristan," Ryan Crocker said.
Speaking to a select group of journalists, he said it was hard fighting an insurgency that had a lot of support outside the national borders. He believed the insurgents' lack of capacity and Afghan forces' ability to respond to the assaults were encouraging.
In response to emailed queries, the diplomat said it was in the long-term interest of Pakistan, as well as Afghanistan and the international community, to bring the Haqqanis and other groups under control.
"Having spent time in Pakistan, I am aware of the challenges they face. This is not easy for them either, and they have lost a lot of soldiers, probably double what ISAF has lost in fighting the same enemy. So, it's complicated, but clearly for a long-term solution, those safe havens have to be reduced whether they are in Waziristan or Balochistan."
About yesterday's attack, Crocker said five guys rumbled into town with RPGs under their car seats, got into a building and did some harassment fire on the US embassy and ISAF. He called the assaults a statement of their weakness.
He praised Afghan forces for effectively dealing with the attackers in the capital, which has already transitioned to the Afghan security lead. "A dozen or so Afghan security force members were killed in the process, but they took on this attack themselves and dealt with it."
Commenting on the security switch, the ambassador said the transition process would proceed apace. "Again, you know, not a fun day at the embassy yesterday but it was harassment rather than a direct attack. That tells me that Afghan forces are first able to prevent really major operations and I feel good about what yesterday shows about their ability to minimize threats that come into the city…"
The diplomat added the US would continue to work with Afghans on an orderly, organised transition. He promised they would not repeat the 1990 mistake of abandoning Afghanistan in the wake of the Soviet pullout.
"As you know, we're negotiating a strategic partnership document that will have us in close association with Afghanistan well beyond the 2014 transition date. We're in it for the long haul and we're in it with them," he maintained.
Asked if the US was winning the war, Crocker replied: "I think the Afghans are showing increasing capability, capacity, determination and resolve to take charge of security. Victory is going to be defined in Afghan terms, not American terms. It's going to be their capacity to take charge of affairs in their own country and what I've seen since I’ve been here, what I saw yesterday up close and real is that that capacity is there."
Coming back to the Kabul incident, the envoy said the American embassy -- physically structured and organisationally equipped to deal with complex contingencies -- was no average diplomatic mission.
"We have an awesome security team both on the ground and sitting up in the embassy to synthesise and gather information, know what's going on. We have a tactical operations centre. I spent most of yesterday in it. We were able to instantly communicate to people where they should move to have security professionals to help them move there..."
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