Taliban Attack on Charity Kills Two and Takes Hostages
With a little more than a week to go before Afghanistan’s presidential election, the Taliban are making good on their promise to use violence in order to try to disrupt it. On Friday a Taliban attack on a Kabul guesthouse used by charitable organization Roots of Peace killed two people, and took five hostages. The casualties were a 10-year-old Afghan girl, who was killed by a suicide bomber’s blast, and a driver waiting outside when the attack happened. Afghan security forces had to lay siege to the guesthouse, a walled compound, for several hours until they were able to kill the last of the Taliban gunmen.
The attack on the guest house appears to have involved a total of five Taliban operatives. It apparently commenced with a car bomb, detonated by a suicide bomber. Other Taliban militants then stormed the building. Over twenty people were inside, though apparently the Taliban militants were only able to take five of them hostage. The five hostages included one Malaysian citizen, one Australian citizen, one South African citizen, and two US citizens. All of them were successfully rescued by the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF), and are apparently unharmed. Over twenty people escaped from the guesthouse without being taken hostage, thanks to the intervention of the APPF. Some of the survivors testified that they hid from the Taliban within the guest house. One survivor testified that he heard the Taliban going from room to room, firing their weapons, although apparently they did not kill anyone in addition to the little girl and the driver who were murdered in the initial assault.
As to why the Taliban would attack a charity, killing two and then taking hostages, unsurprisingly the group claimed a religious motivation. The Taliban’s statement said that they attacked the Roots of Peace guesthouse because the charity was using it to convert Afghans to Christianity. This claim appears quite dubious, in light of the fact that the group is not a religious charity. The mission of Roots for Peace in Afghanistan is promoting sustainable agriculture, empowering communities, and clearing landmines. The charitable organization has worked in Afghanistan since 2003, and in light of their mission the Taliban attack seems particularly senseless and unprovoked.
Tensions are very high in Afghanistan due to Taliban violence in response to the impending presidential election. The Taliban have been able to regain a substantial amount of control in significant parts of rural Afghanistan, and as this incident establishes they are still capable of carrying out high-profile attacks in urban areas. However, in this incident all five Taliban militants died, four by blowing themselves up and one after being shot by the APPF. While the Taliban appear to have considerable resolve, the very capable performance of the APPF indicates the quite significant capabilities of Afghan security forces against them.
As shocking as the attack has been for the Kabul neighborhood in which Roots for Peace is located, it is a very open question whether or not the Taliban will be able to continue to maintain these levels of activity. The group has escalated its assaults in recent weeks, notably with an attack on the Serena Hotel last week, but Afghan security forces have proven that they are eminently capable of hitting back. These attacks are also costly for the Taliban, since they so often result in dead terrorists who must be replaced if the group wants to continue its activities. This attack on the charity is case in point: true, the Taliban killed two innocents and took hostages, but they also lost five of their own militants.
By Michael Schultheiss