Just before 6 pm on Sunday, August 29, a powerful bomb blast shook the DynCorp office in central Kabul. Reports say as many as seven people, including some foreigners, were killed. This explosion was one of the biggest of its kind in recent months, and it comes at a time when the international assistance forces (ISAF), Afghan police, and national army try to secure the capital for the October 9 presidential election. According to a statement by the Office of the Afghan President, two Americans, three Nepalese, and two Afghans (including one child) were killed in the attack. Only one day earlier, an explosion at a madrassa (Muslim school) in the Zormat district of Paktia province in southern Afghanistan killed nine students and one adult (VOA, August 29).
The Kabul bomb was a car packed with some 200 pounds of explosives and detonated by remote control. Eyewitness accounts have speculated that the explosion was designed for maximum impact and casualties, as it was timed for the afternoon rush hour. This part of the city, Shar-i-Nau, is where most foreign aid organizations and UN agencies are located. Many of these organizations had moved to Kabul after similar violence drove them from southern and southeastern Afghanistan. This attack was a warning to these organizations that they cannot be safe in Kabul either.
The Kabul explosion has several implications. First, the militants have sent a strong signal to President Hamid Karzai that his capital is not as secure as he claims. Sunday’s attack was directed at DynCorp, a private American company that provides security for Karzai and reportedly is training Afghan security personnel. Second, this is a serious blow to the NATO-led ISAF in Kabul. The 6,500 strong NATO forces are mostly stationed in Kabul, and the city has been considered an island of security. Third, the intended target was not just any foreign company. DynCorp is a specialized security provider, and the attack on its headquarters revealed its vulnerability. Fourth, the Taliban Islamic militia, which has claimed responsibility for the explosion, has demonstrated that it can operate inside the capital city with audacity and sophistication.
The August 28 explosion in Paktia province was the first time that religious militants allegedly bombed one of their own schools. In Afghanistan, unlike the Middle East, religious institutions such as mosques, madrassas, or shrines have been immune to political violence. In an isolated incident, the Taliban bombed a mosque in Kandahar last year when they wanted to assassinate an Imam who had sided with the Karzai government against the religious extremists. Some reports say that a non-governmental organization was using the Paktia school to teach Afghan women, a practice outlawed by the Taliban in the late 1990s (Reuters, August 29).
These latest explosions come at a time when all eyes are directed towards the October 9 presidential election in Afghanistan. They also come days after President Karzai visited Pakistan and discussed the security situation with his counterparts in Islamabad. Apparently, while the state leaders discussed security issues, so too did their respective opposition movements. Kabul is rife with speculation that the Taliban were helped by their more sophisticated religious brethren across the border.