|Photo from Reddit|
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Did the Taliban attack a U.S. Embassy Kabul convoy of security contractors on Monday, January 4, as they departed their quarters at Camp Sullivan en route to the Embassy? And did they do so using one of the largest vehicle-borne bombs employed in a terrorist attack in recent history?
I didn't see anything about it in the WaPo. It's like the tree that falls in the forest with no one there to hear the crash. In fact, if Diplopundit hadn't posted about it I would have doubted it even happened.
Some news media did report it, although most reports described it as an attack on the airport in Kabul vice a U.S. Mission facility and personnel. Also, there were three separate Taliban attacks in Kabul on that same day, so the Embassy angle could get lost, I suppose.
So far, Embassy Kabul has had almost nothing to say about this incident. Deafening silence, as some have noticed.
NBC News had something:
A convoy of U.S. embassy guards who live at Camp Sullivan was targeted in the second attack [of the day], the official said, but none of the guards were injured. The Ministry of Public Health said 19 civilians in the area were injured and taken to various hospitals, but there were no indications they are Americans.
The official added that the attacker missed the convoy and detonated the explosives at the gate that leads to Camp Sullivan, a residential compound for civilian contractors attached to Camp Baron.
"The car bomb detonated at the gate of Camp Baron on the military side of Kabul airport," a spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior Sediq Sediqqi confirmed.
The Wall Street Journal had some more:
The attacks, one of which struck near the gates of a compound used by U.S. government contractors, highlight the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan as its government struggles to hold parts of the country against an advancing Taliban.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the powerful evening blast which officials said was likely caused by a truck bomb. Witnesses at the scene said the crater was easily 20 feet deep. Body parts were found at the scene and the shock wave had flattened one of the compound’s walls and buildings inside.
Officials declined to give details on the number of international casualties, but Western security sources said buildings inside Camp Sullivan, one of the compounds along the route, had collapsed and casualties were feared.
An emergency operation to rescue those wounded by debris in the compounds was under way and being handled by the U.S. embassy.
The New York Times mentioned the other, failed, vehicle bomb attack of the same day near Kabul's airport:
Earlier in the day, a suicide bomber detonated his vest near the entrance to the airport, but the vehicle he was driving in, also laden with explosives, did not blow up, security officials said. There were no other casualties.
Stars and Stripes had some description of the bomb's impact:
Several people at a U.S. Embassy compound in Kabul were among the injured in Monday’s massive truck bomb attack, an embassy spokesman said.
Two Afghans were killed in the blast and more than 30 wounded, said Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.
The blast from the bomb, which contained an estimated 3,000 pounds of explosives, could be felt miles away. Photos by witnesses showed heavily fortified walls obliterated, damaged buildings and a gaping crater in the road. The bomb damaged buildings and shattered glass far from the blast site.
-- snip --
No Americans were killed in the blast, said the embassy spokesman, who did not specify the nationalities of the injured. The Taliban claimed credit for the attack.
There are three compounds close to each other in the area, which is near a major foreign military base. There was confusion initially about exactly what buildings were hit by the bomb. Even a day later, media were kept hundreds of yards away from the blast site by Afghan police, who said foreign troops had ordered them to keep reporters away.
Who, exactly, made that estimate of the bomb's size? The Afghan Interior Ministry, I assume. I further assume the estimate was based on nothing but the size of the crater. My own unscientific guess, based on comparison of that crater to the ones left by the 2008 Marriott bombing in Islamabad and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Dhahran, is that the bomb might have been even larger than 3,000 pounds.
The best information came from one of the U.S. Government contractors who survived the attack. His first-hand account is on Reddit and was linked by Diplopundit (here).
The contractor, who worked as an Air Traffic Controller at Kabul Airport, related details that tell us something about the bomb's impact:
My entire room imploded around me in a surreal blur of glass and brick. If I had been standing instead of lying in bed, I wouldn't be typing this ... It rendered our compound pretty much useless ... My room was the closest room to it from our building. Probably about 200 feet.
|Photo from Freerange International|
Here's a photo of Camp Sullivan's quarters when they were new. Prefab trailer-type accommodations, certainly not made of brick.
So, where did the flying brick come from? From Camp Sullivan's perimeter wall, that's where.
|Photo from BBC Producer's Twitter feed|
That perimeter wall is thoroughly breached. Like, completely destroyed and turned into those high velocity chunks that struck the contractor's living quarters 200 feet away with lethal force.
It's a good thing the Taliban were aiming that bomb at a moving convoy and not launching a dedicated attack on Camp Sullivan itself, or else they could have followed up with a ground attack and or further bombs inside the compound. Merely the one bomb was sufficient - reportedly - to render useless buildings that the U.S. Embassy relies on for support.
A couple obvious takeaways. First, the huge size of the bomb indicates the Taliban have acquired a high level of technical capability. Second, the fact that they can execute multiple coordinated attacks at more or less the same time and place - even though one of them failed - shows a high level of operational expertise.
None of this is the least bit reassuring as we enter the end stage of our long involvement in Afghanistan, and the Taliban ramps up its efforts to persuade us to leave.