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Afghanistan: Bombing in Kabul

There was a massive suicide bombing at the Indian Embassy in Kabul Monday, killing upwards of 40 people and injuring hundreds more. Many expats and locals are confused at why the crowds near the Indian embassy—which resides on a pleasant and well guarded street by most accounts filled with bookstores and shops—were targeted for destruction. Local bloggers have reacted quite strongly to the attack, as it carries some complex geopolitical implications.

Sanjar notes that the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, and posts some disturbing pictures of the aftermath. He even makes the importance point that it is not just the Taliban who kills scores of civilians in bombing attacks—the U.S. and NATO do as well, sometimes with far greater frequency:

However I have been to the other side of the argument too. After 9/11 I did not feel sorry at all I thought it was an incident which had some collateral damage which compared to my experience was nothing. In my life time over two million of my compatriots have died and half of the country have fled. I believed 9/11 is good for Afghanistan. the world would be so pissed off that they won’t tolerate Taliban and Afghanistan is going to be a better place without Taliban. I have no sympathy and connection with people who died on 9/11 what so ever, while I am deeply connected with two million people who died in my country in my life time.

My response right now to this incident is; if my little brother comes home safe and he is not among dead and wounded children, this is a nice attack with horrific collateral damage. This is an unfair world and everybody pursues an agenda and collateral damage happen it was just yesterday that Americans bombed a village and killed 25 people in wedding when they suspected it of a Taliban gathering in Nangarhar province; it was the day before yesterday that Americans bombed a village in nuristan and killed 15 people in a mistaken attack.

Andrea suggests that this sort of comparison, however, might not be helpful:

Comparing deaths and pain is never particularly helpful, and is definitely not my point. But these horrible tragedies do make me wonder that we need to think more creatively about peace in Afghanistan. These issues are difficult and it is easy to point fingers and declare “right and wrong” and proclaim “evil” versus “good.” In Afghanistan, the lines are not clear. When talking about peace, a favorite writer of mine Thomas Merton requests the individual first to discover our own tendencies toward evil and destruction and recognize the confusion in that process before racing out to blame and chose evil around us.

When an Afghan friend of mine Cobra heard the news she ran out to me, eyes welled with tears and cried, “This is not my Afghanistan. No, this is not good.” My guess is she has been searching for her Afghanistan for a long time. I hope to search for this for her as well, in the small small ways I can.

Nitin Pai, on the other hand, takes a different track and suggests that this was a deliberate attack on Indian officials, aimed at disrupting India's growing presence in the country:

Attacking construction crews in the Afghan countryside is one thing. Attacking top diplomats at the Indian embassy in Kabul is another. Why the Taliban sought to escalate their violence against India remains the question. Not least when they are engaged in a two-front war—against the US & NATO forces in Afghanistan, and, to some extent, against Pakistani forces in Pakistan’s tribal areas and NWFP. The embassy might have offered a target of opportunity and the attack might have been a tactical success, but its strategic utility is suspect.

That’s because India is quite unlikely to be deterred by this attack. It is unlikely to scale down its reconstruction initiatives. If the attacks were intended to provoke and suck India deeper into Afghanistan, then that too is unlikely to happen. In all likelihood, the Indian response would be to harden the targets and move on.

That opens up the other possibility: is this the handiwork of Pakistani interests?

Barnett Rubin sees this as a bit far-fetched, and offers a warning:

[I]n my (admittedly limited) contact with Taliban and in examining Taliban texts from Afghan sources, I see a focus on foreign troops in Afghanistan, not the Karzai government or India.

I heard on the radio that “Taliban” have claimed responsibility for this act. (Also reported by Reuters.) Let's see which “Taliban.” Did it come from the former Taliban leadership in Quetta, or did it come from the Haqqani group in North Waziristan? (Note that both command and control centers of the Taliban are in Pakistan.)…

Let me stick my neck out here: I don't believe that the Kandahari Taliban leadership would mount an attack like this against the Indian embassy. The idea of such an attack came from some combination of all or some of the following: the Haqqani group (as part of a campaign for Pakistani support), Pakistani Taliban, al-Qaida, and the Pakistani security agencies, or private entities under their supervision.

It is obviously too early to tell why the attack actually happened. But for now, let us just pray for the safety of those who are alive in Kabul, and for the victims who are not.

3 comments

  • Very informative and well-crafted post, Joshua. Of particular relevance to me is learning how India is exercising its growing role as a world power right within the region, and how its neighbors perceive that role. It’s jarring yet sobering to read the raw emotions and painful truths as expressed by Sanjar. It helps put into perspective the “geopolitical implications” of India’s rise and the direction that’s going to take.

  • […] long-standing feud with the nomadic Kuchi over land rights. On Tuesday, July 8—the day after the horrific bombing at the Indian embassy in Kabul—a band of Kuchis moved into the Behsud district of Wardak and […]

  • […] diritto alla terra con i Kuchi, popolazione nomadica. Mercoledì 8 luglio 2008 – il giorno dopo il terribile attentato all'ambasciata indiana di Kabul – un gruppo di Kuchi si è diretto verso il distretto Behsud di […]

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