Attack on Kabul is Taliban's negative answer to Karzai's outreach: Experts

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Washington, Jan.19 (ANI): Monday's suicide attack on Kabul can be read as a Taliban effort at "giving a negative answer to the outreach of Mr. Karzai, threatening Afghanistan before the London Conference, and, of course, showing their power even when polls say Afghanistan is getting on the right track," says Waliullah Rahmani, a security analyst with the Kabul Center for Strategic Studies.

Monday's incident marked the largest assault on the capital since gunmen stormed a guesthouse in October, killing at least 11 people including UN staff.

These sorts of attacks underline the continuing ineffectiveness of Afghan police tasked with manning entry points into the capital, says Mr. Rahmani.

That said, he adds, Afghan security forces appeared to shut down the actual attack.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, telling the Associated Press that they had sent 20 armed militants to attack the heart of the city, including the presidential palace. The number of attackers has not yet been confirmed, and search operations for any remaining gunmen continued at press time.

The coming of these Taliban to the outskirts of the presidential palace was not what Karzai had in mind when his spokesman Waheed Omer told reporters on Sunday, "We are ready to negotiate with anyone.... Whoever comes over is welcome."

Mr. Omer announced a forthcoming effort to woo Taliban to lay down their arms, and promised it would go further than past failed efforts.

"The mistakes we have committed before have been considered in developing this new plan," he said. "We have not done enough," the Christian Science Monitor quoted him, as saying.

Adding pressure to the Taliban, speculation is growing of a rapprochement between the government and a key insurgent commander, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

"In the past year or so Hekmatyar, a charismatic Pashtun Islamic fundamentalist, has begun to raise his profile, granting several interviews with major news outlets and stepping up the tempo of his political propaganda," wrote two analysts from the International Crisis Group, Nick Grono and Candace Rondeaux, in a recent op-ed in the Boston Globe. (ANI)

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