Heavily armed government troops thronged the streets of Afghanistan’s capital yesterday, stepping up security before the arrival of the new US envoy to the region the day after Taliban attacks showed how easily the city’s defenses can be breached.
Richard Holbrooke, US President Barack Obama’s recently appointed envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, was expected later in the day for his first trip to the country. Security would have already been high for such a visit, but Holbrooke arrives following one of the Taliban’s most audacious attacks on the capital.
On Wednesday, Taliban militants killed 26 people in a coordinated assault on three government buildings. Armed with guns, grenades and suicide vests, they stormed through barricades at the Justice Ministry in the heart of Kabul and a corrections department building to the north.
One attacker was killed before he could force his way into a third building, the Education Ministry.
All eight attackers died in Wednesday’s assaults, bringing the death toll to 34. Another 57 people were wounded.
Amrullah Saleh, the head of Afghanistan’s intelligence service, said the attackers sent text messages to a militant leader in Pakistan before the attack.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered quick action against the Kabul attackers and assured in a statement that the “security forces have the ability to protect the lives and property of the people of Afghanistan.”