Update: Death toll has surpassed 150.
The morning of Wednesday, May 31, marks another terrorist attack in Kabul. The explosion near the German embassy killed at least 90 people and wounded 400. It remains unclear whether the embassy was the intended target.
A recorded 50 people were killed in an attack at a hospital in March. In November a suicide bomber struck a Shia mosque.
As Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul is more at risk to be attacked because of the assets it holds such as its many foreign embassies and military entities. Regardless of how susceptible the capital may be, the reoccurrence of violence there is concerning.
According to the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Kabul, the vehicle holding the bomb was heading toward the Green Zone, home to many foreign embassies, but was stopped by Afghan forces before it could enter.
Not only is the target unclear, but the group responsible remains unclear. The Taliban and IS are the two prime suspects though the Taliban have denied any involvement with the bomb and IS has yet to comment.
The Taliban denying their participation could be a result of the high number of civilian casualties. Their policy on civilian casualties has varied over time depending on their strategic situation. Given the Taliban’s ongoing competition with Islamic State, it may be the case that the Taliban does not wish to take credit for large civilian casualties as part of an effort to portray themselves as being the more restrained and strictly sharia adherent of the jihadists groups. They may also wish to emphasize that their conflict is with foreign entities and the Afghan government rather than civilians.
It is also possible the Taliban would deny responsibility because they view the Kabul bombing as a failure since the explosive did not reach the intended target.
However, there is strong evidence pointing towards Taliban involvement. The Taliban are in the midst of what is known as its annual spring offensive. Their goal is to cleanse Afghanistan of foreign invaders and other enemies. The bombing in Kabul was no doubt targeted towards a foreign embassy. While the exact embassy is yet to be determined, the attack certainly fits the criteria for a Taliban-directed attack.
Additionally, Kabul residents reported an increase in Taliban infiltration into the city just days before the bombing further indicating likeliness of their responsibility for the attack.
Regardless of whether the Taliban is to blame, the bombing in Kabul highlights key concerns in Afghan leadership and stability. The fact that such a powerful bomb could successfully detonate in what is considered a secure area not only points toward the major security failing but also the weaknesses of the Afghan government.
Presently, the Afghan government has lost control over a third of the country to insurgent groups, primarily the Taliban. Moreover, Afghanistan holds the largest concentration of US recognized terrorist groups than anywhere else in the world. These groups are well organized and pose a large threat to the government, including the Taliban. In 2015, the Taliban controlled a recorded 1/5 of the country and likely had influence over half of it. This number has only increased with time.
As insurgencies continue to expand their footprint in Afghanistan, it is important to recognize the dangers they pose.
As these insurgencies grow stronger, the government’s capacity to fight back grows weaker. The struggles of the military, such as their deep-seated corruption and NATO related combat operations, to fight insurgents as well as the Afghan government’s waning influence leaves the state vulnerable. It is clear that if the Afghan government wishes to win back control of Afghanistan, they must re-strategize their approach.