A 14-hour standoff in Kabul, Afghanistan serves as an unfriendly reminder that the Taliban still poses a real, substantial threat to the Middle East. At the Intercontinental Hotel, six gunmen stormed the building and held its guests captive. According to the Interior Ministry, 153 people, including 41 foreigners, were rescued from the scene. This was only possible after extensive shooting between the gunmen and Afghani forces. The official death count may not be known for days however, Tolo News, a local news outlet, put the number at 43. Desperate guests who wanted to escape this outcome could be seen climbing out their windows and shimmying along the hotel walls.
Surprisingly, this is not the Intercontinental Hotel’s first date with terrorism. In June 2011, seven members of the Taliban carried out a planned attack on the capital’s luxury hotel. In both the 2011 attack and the Saturday night attack, gunmen were able to penetrate the hotel’s security, which CNN describes as “typically heavy.” This draws the question of what we can learn from attacks, but more importantly, how we can create solutions to fix the issues.
Better yet, the Saturday night attack should not have even come as a surprise. The U.S. State Department released a warning last week that extremist groups may have been planning an attack on Kabul hotels. While the Afghan Interior Ministry suggests that the Haqqani network specifically carried out the attack, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack hours later. The Haqqani Network is an especially violent branch of the Taliban which operates out of Pakistan. According to CNN, this group also maintains close ties with al-Qaeda. In addition to the extravagant siege at the Intercontinental, the Taliban is also responsible for another Saturday attack in Northern Afghanistan which targeted members of a local police militia. According to Nazar Gul Sholgarai, a commander of this militia, his men were tricked into attending a dinner reception with poisoned meat.
While Saturday’s siege in Kabul may have been foreshadowed, it is important that the world does not let these events become the status quo. U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan John R. Bass stated that, “such violence has no place here or anywhere in the world.” Additionally, Bass suggested, “Afghanistan deserves peace and security – not deliberate and murderous attacks on innocent civilians…My government and the people of the United States stand with the Afghan government and people in fighting terrorism and working to bring peace and security to Afghanistan.” As the Ambassador proposed, the world can only solve the issue of terrorism by working as a community. Peace is something we must work to attain. However distant they may seem, peace and security are assets we should keep working towards, even when terrorism tries to stop us.
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