CIA headquarters primary target, says the militant group

Within days of the failure to hold talks in Doha, Taliban has carried out an audacious strike in Kabul’s high-security zone, sending a clear message to the U.S. and the Afghan governments that it has indicated its willingness for a dialogue from a position of strength.

The attack began in the early hours on Tuesday when at least two vehicles, both Toyota Land Cruisers, approached the entrance to the zone, which housed the presidential palace, the Ariana hotel which is the CIA headquarters in Afghanistan, the Defence Ministry and headquarters of the multinational International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

The first vehicle bearing an ISAF emblem, and whose occupants wore uniforms and badges of the international troops, managed to pass. However, the second car was stopped at the barrier, as suspicion mounted among the guards that its entry pass was fake.

The strike that followed continued for about two hours, said Kabul’s police chief Ayub Salangi.

Of the four attackers on a suicide mission, one blew himself up, while the rest were killed by private security forces attached to Ariana Hotel.

A statement posted on the Taliban website said the “CIA headquarter [was] the primary target of the operation”. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid asserted that the “martyrdom attack” targeted “the most heavily-fortified strategic points at the heart of Afghan capital”.

It follows the Taliban’s failure to mount a propaganda coup by holding talks with the U.S. and the Afghan representatives at their newly opened office in Doha.

But a furious Afghan government, citing contested sovereignty, refused to participate after the Taliban unfurled their flag and claimed that the office in Doha belonged to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

After three calls earlier to Mr. Karzai by U.S. Secretary of the State John Kerry, the U.S. has accelerated its drive for damage control. James Dobbins, U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, who arrived in Kabul, clarified that just as Mr. Karzai, the Americans were also upset by the trappings of sovereignty that the Taliban had demonstrated. He added that the Taliban’s attempt to mount a “propaganda victory” had misfired.

“I think it may have been a combination of misunderstanding and a desire for a certain propaganda victory, which I think turned out to be —from their standpoint — disappointing.”