so long ago I was in the grounds of the Intercontinental hotel in Kabul. I was sipping Afghan soup with an English-speaking Afghan student. She was sitting at a picnic table with her family. It could have been New York or Amsterdam. She explained that they had planned to go to the Kabul museum, but forgot to check the opening hours, and it was closed. Stupid huh? she laughed. So, she was just passing time in the park, looking at the magnificent view.
Tuesday night I was reporting from almost the same spot. Journalists from all over the world were calling me on my mobile phone, asking for the latest about the ongoing fighting in and around the hotel, which had been attacked by suicide bombers. I had to take cover from outgoing fire from the hotel, rocket-propelled grenades and so on. I couldnt help but say: What was that? during one of the interviews with I think ABC Australia when two huge explosions were heard.
The question I got asked the most was: why did the Afghan forces not manage to secure the place properly? What does it say about the current status of the training of the police?
In these phoners as they are called, you have no more then three minutes to explain what is going on. And you have to keep it simple. What I would have loved to explain is that the solution to the conflict here in Afghanistan lies not in more barbed wire in the park in front of the hotel or on any other places foreigners visit. I would have loved to explain that the conflict in Afghanistan is, in fact, a political one. While discussions are going on about fewer troops, the west refuses to talk seriously about solving the huge political crisis that creates the kind of outburst of violence we saw Tuesday night at the hotel. The government of Hamid Karzai is digging its own grave with enormous corruption and patronage. In the meantime excluded groups find each other, make deals with whoever has an interest in fighting and commit attacks.
Of course, in an unstable situation like this the security forces despite the training they get from the Nato will be affected by this gameplay. They are instruments of commanders and ministers who are all trying to survive, to support their own group, and have lost any connection with normal Afghans. They are manipulated, used to facilitate attacks or sidelined by their boss private militias. While I was watching ISAF-helicopters coming to the scene, being shot at by the insurgents on the roof, I tried to explain that the planned transition is doomed to fail as long as this situation stays as it is.
Another question was is this a Bombay-like attack in Kabul? Has the capital entered a new stage of violence? I tried to tell them: does this matter? As long as the political crisis is not addressed and Nato and the relatively small group of diplomats who are based here do not seek the political solution, there might be an attack even bigger than the one in Bombay. And rolling barbed wire over that lovely park where students and families try to have a normal life wont make any difference. Guardian