What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The two Kandahar bombings: Could have been much worse

Many people are making the connection between two abhorrently brutal bombings - one an assassination with a lot of random killing, the other an attack on a NATO convoy with a lot of random killing. But there's more to this in fact. Anyway, firstly about the bombings here.
The first one came on February 17, and killed eventually over a hundred people in a crowd gathered to watch a dogfight, with several militia commanders present:
"Abdul Hakim Jan, the leader of a local militia, was among the victims, and officials speculate he may have been the target of the bombing.
Witnesses told Reuters news agency that some of Mr. Jan's bodyguards fired into the crowd as they fled from the blast, causing additional casualties.
Mr. Jan was the provincial police chief in Kandahar in the early 1990s and the only commander in the province to stand up against the Taliban during its rule, said Khalid Pashtun, a parliamentarian who represents Kandahar.
"Hakim Jan is one of the important, prominent jihadi commanders in Kandahar," Mr. Pashtun said. "There were so many people gathered and of course the Taliban and al Qaeda usually target this kind of important person.

Mr. Jan was recently appointed the commander of an auxiliary police force in Arghandab, a strategic area north of Kandahar. The area was overrun briefly by the Taliban late last year after the local leader, Mullah Naqibullah, died of heart attack."
So, there is a bloody attack. Made even more bloody after body guards start shooting frantically. Just like back in Baghlan, on November 6 last year. And the Taliban deny involvement, even though enemies of theirs died in the attack. And it's all tied to Arghandab, about which district I have written a couple of days ago that it's not nice to hear Canadian General Gauthier say Arghandab isn't fit for protection in Canadian Forces' "triage system" for Kandahar province's districts.
"A suicide car bomber killed 38 Afghans at a crowded market Monday, pushing the death toll from two days of militant bombings to about 140.
The marketplace blast, which targeted a Canadian army convoy, came a day after the country's deadliest insurgent attack since a U.S. invasion defeated the
Taliban regime in late 2001. The toll from that bombing in a crowd watching a dog fight rose to more than 100."
So many casualties... News reports' authors rightly wonder, the Taliban hasn't appeared ready up till now to cause this many casualties with regularity. But it wasn't necessarily the Taliban, one feels. The Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, and a bunch of foreign fighters, they could now be so well integrated that there's not much of a sense perhaps to separate them so much in analysis in these cases.
But here comes some more bad news. The two previous days' bombings may have been footnotes to any message meant to be delivered by the militants. I say so, because I can't not make the connection to what I've just read at the Uruzgan Weblog, from the UK's Daily Star:
"They buried two deadly HN5 guided surface-to-air missiles near the airfield’s main approach lane, where RAF Tristars daily soar in and out of the base. The missiles – MANPADS in military-speak – had been hidden for a Taliban marksman who would attach them to his trigger mechanism and take aim as a Tristar or other coalition transport plane flew overhead. If the Taliban had hit a Tristar they would have instantly killed around 200 British troops – more than trebling the UK death toll of the Afghan campaign since 2001."
Looking to coordinate such attacks as all the ones mentioned in this post, hoping that they will start some cascade (à la James Rosenau) of occurrances that leads to a disruption of the ISAF coalition in southern Afghanistan looks definitely more like what AQI used to try a lot in Iraq. In another post of mine at the end of January, after the Serena Hotel attack, I wrote this:
"Kabul itself is an important target, but this is the second time I see insurgents going for really strategically well-elected targets in a short while. And the one before wasn't in Kabul, it was the November 6 bombing attack on the New Baghlan sugar factory, a bloody attack that yielded insurgents friction in Kabul plus also served as a deterrent against investors coming to the relatively stable areas of the north, by attacking the perception of relative stability itself. I'm connecting those two attacks on the basis of their effects-based nature. Who's so adept at planning those operations, and especially at calculating the damage so well? And what else can we expect in 2008?"
You see, if this is the "Taliban," I have a feeling they are getting a lot of help. Quite worrying. Good intel work at KAF, though.


Anonymous said...

I am told by people that this is more likely a case of revenge attack on the commander and not a Taliban operation. It could be spun either way though.

Péter MARTON said...

I see. I don't know, but it still seems to me a key indicator that there was much random killing here, which an ordinary assassin won't be really interested in. And suicide bombings haven't really been used in Afghanistan by others than al-Qaida, the Taliban, and possibly HIG so far. And it would also be much of a coincidence that Abdul Hakim Jan has just been assigned to Arghandab, which fell temporarily last year right after, and because of, mullah Naqib's death. So while I can't discount any rumours like that, with the killing of a current key commander in Arghandab, I'd look out for what insurgents might want to do in Arghandab in the upcoming period.