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Kabul attacked, again

Updated January 28, 2018


A SHOCKINGLY vile attack in Kabul deserves the strongest of condemnation. A third major attack in a week — two in Kabul and one in Jalalabad — has also bloodily underlined that the war in Afghanistan has moved on from the previous cycle of spring offensives and winter lulls.

The carnage in Afghanistan is now year round. Without doubt, there have been significant intelligence and security failures in Kabul that need to be urgently addressed.

While attacks anywhere and the loss of life and injuries must always be condemned, attacks on capital cities tend to have a particular resonance, even in Afghanistan where centralised power has been the exception rather than the rule.

When the Swat Taliban had spilled out of their base in the Malakand region and made their presence felt a handful of miles from Islamabad, Pakistan and the world were rightly alarmed.

It is not that human lives in a capital city are more precious, but the psychological effect of a terror attack in either Kabul or Islamabad can have far-reaching domestic and international effects.

The images from Kabul yesterday are heartbreaking, and the fact that an ambulance was effectively converted into a truck bomb is a numbing reality.

More such attacks are almost surely being planned and the Afghan authorities assisted by foreign states with stakes in Afghanistan needs to act quickly to curb the fresh wave of violence.

Pakistan too must play its part. If the Afghan government shares intelligence with Pakistan that can help it in finding the architects and organisers of the recent grotesque attacks in Afghanistan or prevent future attacks there, the state here should do whatever it can to help the government in Kabul.

What can also be considered is sharing the expertise that Pakistan has gained in counter-insurgency and counterterrorism operations with the Afghan government and military to help both improve their performance in defending the country from such ferocious attacks in future.

Certainly, a political settlement will eventually be needed in Afghanistan, but that does not mean simply moving aside and waiting for the Afghan state, the US and the insurgents to fight themselves to the point of a bitter, brutal stalemate.

No reasonable individual can accept what happened in Kabul yesterday and Pakistan should stand on the right, moral side of history.

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2018