A group of Taliban suicide bombers attacked the Kabul headquarters of the Afghan intelligence agency, exposing the challenges the country’s forces face as they ready to take over the lead security role within months.
Six militants wearing explosive vests stopped their vehicles near the building before running toward its gates, Hashmatullah Stanekzai, a spokesman for Kabul police, said in a phone interview. One successfully detonated his explosives while the other five were shot dead by police, he said.
The New York Times said one of two minivans used in the assault exploded, while devices in a second vehicle didn’t detonate. The paper said those wounded in the attack were seen staggering down the street, some covered in blood. Kabul police said 30 civilians were injured.
Zabihullah Mujahed, the Taliban’s spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement that the group carried out the attack. The capital is routinely targeted by the movement’s guerrillas, who are fighting U.S.-led troops and the Afghan forces of President Hamid Karzai.
Signaling his resolve to extricate the U.S. from an 11-year war, President Barack Obama Jan. 12 laid out an accelerated security transition at a news conference with the Afghan leader. The two leaders met as the Obama administration considers options for how many support troops to keep in Afghanistan after 2014 -- from none to several thousand.
While Pentagon officials have proposed keeping some troops in Afghanistan for counterterrorism and training, Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to Obama, said last week that the U.S. has the option of removing all its forces if differences, such as immunity from local prosecution, between the two countries aren’t resolved.
Afghanistan’s intelligence chief, Asadullah Khalid, was wounded last month in a suicide attack at a guest house run by the spy agency in the capital. The attacker had posed as a Taliban peace messenger who then detonated his suicide vest once inside the National Directorate of Security building.
Pakistan has begun releasing some members of Afghanistan’s Taliban movement in a bid to help the U.S. and Afghan governments start meaningful negotiations with the insurgents.