Starting at 1:30PM Sunday, the Taliban launched its most brazen, audacious attack ever in Afghanistan.
Using rocket-propelled grenades, trucks loaded with explosives, and suicide bombers, the Afghan rebel army besieged strategic locations in Kabul and three eastern cities.
The carefully coordinated operations targeted the US, German, and British embassies in the Afghan capital, as well as NATO bases, a hotel and supermarket frequented by expats, and the Afghan parliament.
The siege ended 18 hours later after a counterattack by Afghan and NATO forces. Several reports blamed the actions on the Haqqani network, an elusive clan of Taliban fighters based in Pakistan.
“We are strong and we can attack anywhere we want,” said Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, declaring that a long-awaited “spring offensive” had begun.
The US and NATO tried to spin it the opposite way, calling it a sign of the Taliban’s weakness.
“If this is the best they can do to start their fighting season, then obviously the Afghan security forces and others are having a significant impact,” said NATO spokesman Col. Daniel King.
Really? Because there was no denying the brazen sophistication of the attacks. As The New York Times reported:
Though the overall confirmed death toll was low, with six victims initially reported across four provinces, they were among the most audacious coordinated terrorist attacks here in recent years.
It reminded me immediately of the Tet Offensive, which began January 31, 1968 when North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces launched surprise attacks throughout South Vietnam, especially in the capital of Saigon, and even on the grounds of the US Embassy. It lasted about a month.
Here’s what Gen. William C. Westmoreland said at the time:
Although the enemy has achieved some temporary psychological advantage, he suffered a military defeat.
Although the Communist forces ultimately were forced to retreat, they caused enormous psychological damage. US public opinion immediately turned against our involvement in Vietnam, and President Lyndon Johnson announced shortly afterward that he wouldn’t run for re-election.
The US public opposes further involvement in Afghanistan, and NATO forces will withdraw by the end of 2014.
Here’s what US Ambassador Ryan Crocker told CNN:
To get out before the Afghans have a full grip on security, which is a couple of years out, would be to invite the Taliban, Haqqani, and Al Qaeda back in and set the stage for another 9/11.
Maybe so, but just last week, Pakistan demanded that the US end its highly successful drone attacks against Al Qaeda militants and Taliban insurgents like the Haqqanis who use the border area with Afghanistan as sanctuaries.
It took seven years after Tet for the US to withdraw from Vietnam. We have two years left in Afghanistan. But, as in Vietnam, it was a lost cause a long time ago.