Pentagon: Haqqani Network Behind 18-Hour Afghan Assault

Posted April 16th, 2012 at 11:45 am (UTC-5)
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The Pentagon says the militant Haqqani network, based in Pakistan, is likely behind the coordinated attacks carried out throughout Afghanistan.

Nearly 18 hours of fighting in the capital and parts of three provinces ended early Monday, when Afghan troops backed by NATO helicopters attacked a building in Kabul where the last militants were hiding. Witnesses said they watched rocket-propelled grenades crash into the building repeatedly before dawn.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks, but both Afghanistan's Interior Minister Besmillah Mohammadi and the Pentagon blamed the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network, which is said to operate out of sanctuaries in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters the assault was not unexpected because this is the start of the Taliban's spring offensive. He said the Pentagon will look into possible intelligence gaps.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the attacks were an “intelligence failure by us and especially NATO” and demanded a full investigation. During a Cabinet meeting in Kabul, he praised Afghan security forces' courage and their ability to defend the country. The top U.S. and NATO commander in the country, American General John Allen, agreed, praising the Afghans' quick and well-coordinated response to the attacks.

The president's office said four civilians and 11 Afghan security personnel were killed in the attacks. Authorities arrested one insurgent and killed 36 others during the fighting that began on Sunday.

In Kabul, militants attacked parliament, NATO headquarters and an area that includes the U.S., German and British embassies. They also staged assaults in three eastern provinces – Nangarhar, Logar and Paktia.

Western embassies said none of their staff members was hurt during the 18-hour ordeal.

Coalition spokesman Carsten Jacobson said insurgents fired at targets indiscriminately, not to “achieve a military success, but to achieve publicity.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the attacks “cowardly” in a call to the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker.

Violence has continued in Afghanistan as coalition forces have begun withdrawing from the country and transferring security duties to their Afghan counterparts.

The United States and Afghanistan are pushing toward completion of a long-term strategic agreement defining the U.S. presence in Afghanistan once all foreign combat troops leave the country by 2014.