The World from Berlin 'The Taliban Are Celebrating a Symbolic Victory'
Their targets might have escaped without injury but the Taliban's message rang out loud and clear: no one is safe in Afghanistan, not even the country's president.
On Sunday, during a state ceremony to mark the Mujahedeen victory over the Soviet-backed government of Afghanistan 16 years ago, militants fired rockets and automatic rifles at President Hamid Karzai. Although the Taliban fighters missed their main targets, the attack was a propaganda victory. By sending the president and foreign ambassadors scurrying, the extremists vividly demonstrated the fragility of the Afgan government to a world-wide television audience.
As shots rang out, hundreds of police and army, who had formed an honor guard, fled in chaos. The president, cabinet ministers and senior diplomats, including the US and UK ambassadors, were bundled away by security forces. Three people, including a lawmaker who was around 30 meters from the president, were killed.
Despite a wide security cordon, at least three Taliban fighters managed to hide in a building overlooking the parade ground and open fire at the end of a gun salute. Defense Minister General Abdul Rahim Wardak said that the three attackers were then killed by security forces after a gunbattle, the Associated Press reports.
Afghanistan analysts said the attack was meant to undermine the public's faith in their government's ability to protect them. Afghan parliamentarian Ramazan Bashardost told Reuters: "There is no security force in Afghanistan that people can trust. If you pay attention to yesterday's incident, the security forces fled the area before the ordinary people did."
German media commentators write on Monday that the attack showed the Taliban had grown in confidence and they worry about the damage it could do to the government's reputation.
Ullrich Fichtner on Spiegel Online writes:
"The Taliban are now celebrating their symbolic victory, as a sign 'that nobody can feel safe' in Afghanistan. The images of fleeing ministers, high-ranking clerics, NATO commanders and ambassadors from around the world demonstrate that its terror network, despite all official assertions, has not been disrupted."
"The fact that the attackers are able to carry out co-ordained attacks in Kabul itself, and not only in far-flung provinces, is at any rate a sobering sign for the tough challenge of rebuilding Afghanistan. The events also calls into question the efforts by NATO forces and those of other states."
The conservative Die Welt writes:
"What is frightening is how well the Taliban are organized and how good their networks are. The previous assassination attempts on Karzai were mostly carried out outside of Kabul and from a distance, using self-made rockets or firearms."
"Yesterday's attack by the Taliban demonstrates just how easy it is nowadays for the extremists to penetrate deep into the capital. When carrying out these attacks they use the Wardak province, which is one hour by car from Kabul, as their base. There they are free to roam."
"A few years ago the Taliban had trouble recruiting suicide bombers and resorted to using foreigners. However, today most suicide attackers are Afghans. And now we have to reckon with further demonstrations of their new confidence."
The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
"Karzai survived unhurt, once again. But his subsequent attempt, during a televized speech, to demonstrate calm and composure will hardly have impressed any Afghans."
"Despite fortunately failing to achieve their goal, the Taliban have once again exposed the state's vulnerability and weakness. That on its own is deeply dangerous for the president."
"After all there is a reason why the people voted for him: He had promised security and order. Nothing frustrates Afghans more than Karzai not being able to keep that promise; and nothing will drive them further away from the government."
"For Karzai, every day is a fight for survival -- and on some days he is fighting for more than his political survival."
-- Mark Waffel, 2:30 p.m. CET