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Taliban attacks near US embassy in Kabul raise questions of infiltration

Insurgents have targeted Kabul landmarks before, but this attack’s proximity to the city’s most secure zone raises questions about Taliban infiltration into even the most sensitive ranks.

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An Afghan military helicopter flies around a building, which is occupied by militants in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday, Sept. 13. Taliban insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles at the US Embassy, NATO headquarters and other buildings in the heart of the Afghan capital, further undermining confidence in the government’s ability to take over security from withdrawing international forces.

Musadeq Sadeq/AP

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Gunmen stormed a high-rise building under construction in the Afghan capital Tuesday afternoon, raining rockets and small-arms fire on the nearby US embassy and homes of the elite. Other fighters raided an Afghan Border Police base across town.

Fighting continues several hours later, but initial reports indicate no embassy or NATO staff have been wounded, while six Afghans have been killed and 15 more injured.

Insurgents have targeted Kabul landmarks before, but this attack’s proximity to the city’s most secure zone further undermines confidence in the government’s ability to take over security from withdrawing international forces. In particular, the attack raises questions about Taliban infiltration into the ranks of even the most sensitive forces.

“We’ve suspected for quite awhile that the Taliban have deeply penetrated the Afghan security forces … but to be able to do this in this secure zone shows a great deal of penetration,” says Kamran Bokhari, an analyst with Stratfor, a Texas-based intelligence analysis firm.

He says the intent of an attack like this is to sow seeds of mistrust. “It becomes more and more difficult for international forces to trust their Afghan counterparts.”

The attack began in the early afternoon with an unknown number of fighters taking over a partially constructed high-rise building about 300 meters from the US embassy. Intended to be a shopping mall, the roughly 14-story building is mostly just cement without windows or doors.

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