Kabul hotel siege

Afghan National Army was no match for militant groups despite their extensive training by US-led coalition soldiers

Editorial January 22, 2018

As if we needed another reminder of the tenuous control that the Afghan government has over the entire warravaged country, Kabul again fell prey to a deadly attack by the Taliban this week. The latest assault, this time on one of the city’s major landmarks, the Intercontinental Hotel, has come within days of a rare and significant admission by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that his country’s national army could not last more than six months without international coalition support. Whether or not Ghani’s admission was part of a ploy to gain sympathy for the rag-tag army — once touted by US forces as a well trained force capable of countering and even defeating  the Taliban — it does prove the long-held contention of security experts that the Afghan National Army was no match for militant groups despite their extensive training by US-led coalition soldiers. Training in combat is just not the same as fighting battle hardened warriors. The fact that five Taliban men fitted with suicide vests were able to engage and withstand a 12-hour long gun battle with the Afghan army is a testament to the potency of the militant group. More than that it shows how weak, helpless and uninspired the Afghan forces actually are.

The Intercontinental hotel – the site of the attack — was preparing to host an information technology conference and more than 100 IT specialists and engineers had gathered there in advance. By the time the attack was repulsed a number of US armoured vehicles could be seen in and around the hotel, confirming the presence of US troops at the site. The militants managed to sneak into the hotel despite the fact that Kabul has been on high alert for nearly a week – in the wake of a US Embassy warning of escalated militant threats in the city. This is why we need to see peace initiatives undertaken by the Afghan government and Washington.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2018.

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