Karzai: Kabul Hotel Attack Will Not Deter Security Transition

Posted June 29th, 2011 at 1:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Afghan President Hamid Karzai says attacks like the one on a landmark Kabul hotel that killed 11 civilians and police will not deter the security transition in his country.

The five-hour siege of the Inter-Continental Hotel by heavily armed militants ended early Wednesday after all nine attackers either blew themselves up or were killed by Afghan security forces, with the help of NATO.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which began late Tuesday when the attackers penetrated the fortified hotel and set off several explosions. Those killed included Afghan hotel workers, police officers, and one Spanish guest.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday condemned the attack on the Inter-Continental as a “ruthless act of terror.” In a statement, he praised the rapid response by security forces and said the attack will not stop the process of transferring security control from foreign to Afghan forces.

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama told reporters the Afghan capital “was much safer than it was and that Afghan forces are much more capable than they were.” He said such attacks would continue for some time because, as he put it, “our work is not done.”

The siege on the Inter-Continental, which also wounded eight people, came on the eve of a conference focused on Afghan preparations for the security handover. Several Afghan provincial officials taking part in Wednesday's conference were staying at the hotel.

The Inter-Continental, built on a hill in the 1960s, was for years the Afghan capital's main hotel, and is used by foreigners. Afghan security officials say they are investigating how the militants were able to get past several security checkpoints to reach the hotel.

The last major attack on a Kabul hotel was in 2008, when militants stormed the luxury Serena hotel in the center of the city, killing eight people in a coordinated assault.

After hours of fighting at the Inter-Continental, a NATO helicopter helped end the stand-off, killing the last of the gunmen who had taken up positions on the hotel's roof.

NATO joined President Karzai and the United States in condemning the “cowardly attack” on Afghan civilians. A coalition spokesman said the attack will “do nothing” to prevent the security transition process from going forward.

Afghan forces are due to take security control of seven areas in Afghanistan beginning in July.

All foreign combat troops are expected to complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan and transfer security control to local forces by the end of 2014.

President Obama announced last week that 10,000 U.S. troops will be pulled out by the end of this year, with 23,000 more leaving Afghanistan by September 2012.

He said Wednesday that the United States is “being successful” in its mission in Afghanistan. Mr. Obama told reporters in Washington that it is in the U.S. national interest that Afghanistan “not collapse.”

Separately, NATO said an insurgent attack killed one of its service members in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday.