KABUL, Afghanistan -- KABUL, Afghanistan In Kabul, "Taliban Tuesdays" are becoming a grim joke.
For the fourth consecutive week, suicide attackers picked Tuesday to strike in the Afghan capital, this time hitting a logistics company compound on the east side of Kabul with a truck bomb so big that it shattered windows a quarter of a mile away.
Five security guards and two truck drivers who were waiting to enter the compound were killed, Kabul Police Chief Gen. Mohammad Ayoub Salangi said.All five attackers also were killed, one in the blast and the others in a gun battle with security guards and police.
The timing of the attack, in the early morning hours Tuesday, fit a pattern. Previous Tuesday targets were the country’s supreme court building, the presidential palace and an adjacent CIA compound, and the convoy of a politician. A fifth recent attack, on the military side of the international airport, took place on a Monday.
The attacks haven’t caused serious damage or large numbers of casualties, except for the attack outside the courthouse, which left 17 dead and dozens wounded. But together they’ve created a steady drumbeat of violence in the capital. That, rather than damage, is the insurgents’ goal, U.S. and Afghan analysts said.
"These attacks are almost purely for psychological effect," said Seth Jones, who served on the staff of the U.S. Special Operations Command chief in Afghanistan and is now associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corp. "They’re picked up in the media, and are designed to show they can strike anywhere, even though they can’t really control urban territory.
"It’s a tactic the mujahedeen used in the 1980s and that we see in other insurgent groups. What they’re trying to do is push a message to the U.S. public, the Afghans and the international community that the Americans are leaving and the situation is hopeless, even though in truth it’s not hopeless."
Atiqullah Amarkhil, a former Afghan army general who’s now a military analyst, said the Taliban couldn’t win the war but could improve their negotiating position for any settlement.
"As a military power, I don’t believe that the Taliban could capture the country and rule over the people, but as 2014 is closing in and the Afghan National Security Forces have taken the security lead, they are trying to show the normal people that they can knock on the doors of the presidential palace and other important facilities and disrupt the normal life," he said. "They are trying to show the Afghan government and the international community that it’s insecure even in Kabul to get some sort of benefits and privileges." U.S. and other international combat forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan next year.
The regular attacks will continue, the insurgents warned.
"We will continue our ongoing operation on the Afghan and foreign facilities in the future," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid wrote in an emailed statement.
The name of the company targeted was unclear late Tuesday. The Taliban quickly claimed credit via email and text message, saying they’d struck the logistics company Supreme, which provides food to NATO bases here. A police spokesman also identified the compound as Supreme’s, but that company’s local base is a few miles from the site of the attack, and a Supreme spokeswoman in Dubai, Carissa Crowley, said the reports were inaccurate and that neither Supreme nor any of its subcontractors had been hit.