On 07 February 2018, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior (MoI) announced a new security plan that will be introduced in Kabul following a series of deadly security incidents in the city in late-December 2017 and January 2018.
29 January 2018: A group of militants attacked an Afghan National Army (ANA) post close to the Marshal Fahim National Defence University (MFNDU) in the PD5 area of the city. The attack occurred early in the morning with two suicide bombers detonating devices, before a five-hour gun battle took place. At least 11 soldiers were killed, and 16 others injured. Four of the five militants were killed. One was arrested. The attack was claimed by Islamic State - Khorasan Province (IS-K).
27 January 2018: An ambulance packed with explosives was detonated near the diplomatic area of the city, killing at least 103 people and injuring 235 others. The majority of those killed were civilians. Reports suggest that the militants passed through at least one checkpoint before detonating the explosives. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
20 January 2018: At least four militants were involved in a coordinated attack on the Intercontinental hotel which involved suicide bombers, rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire. The militants took hostages and laid siege to the building for several hours, before the attack was ended by Afghan special forces. At least 42 people were killed, 14 of whom were foreigners, and 14 others injured. The attack was claimed Haqqani network and the Taliban. Three days prior to the attack the U.S Embassy issued an alert stating they had credible intelligence of a threat to high-profile hotels.
15 January 2018: Two rockets were fired from the eastern part of Kabul and fell in Wazir Akbar Khan, the diplomatic area. One fell inside the Indian Embassy compound and another landed close to the Canadian embassy. No casualties were reported. The attack coincided with a visit by a UN delegation to Kabul. It is likely that the attack was aimed at the general location of the diplomatic area, rather than a specific embassy. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
04 January 2018: A suicide attacker detonated a device at a protest, killing 11 people and wounding 25 others. It was not clear whether the activists or the security forces present at the protests were the intended targets. The incident took place in the Bani Esar area (PD9). Local media reports suggest IS have claimed responsibility for the attack.
28 December 2017: A Shia cultural centre was targeted in Kabul resulting in the deaths of at least 40 people and the injuring of 80 others. A lone assailant detonated a device at around 10.30 in the centre which is in the Pul-e- Sokhtia (PD6) area. Two further devices were detonated as the emergency services responded to the initial explosion. It is not known whether these explosions were also caused by suicide bombers or whether devices were planted. Several civil society groups including student groups were present at the centre during a meeting commemorating the 38th anniversary of the 1979 Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan. IS claimed responsibility for the attack.
25 December 2017: A suicide attacker on foot detonated a device outside a compound of the Afghan national intelligence agency (Shash Darak area). Six civilians who were passing through the area in a vehicle at the time were killed. IS claimed responsibility for the attack.
Though most of the details regarding the new security plan have not been made public it is thought that the 52 measures will be rolled-out in three phases. Officials confirmed that many of the side roads connecting suburbs of Kabul to the centre of the city will have additional checkpoints put in place, and security forces will increase their reconnaissance and intelligence activities.
Though the frequency of attacks in Kabul has risen since 2015, this period has been particularly noteworthy in terms of the regularity of major incidents and the numbers killed and injured in the attacks. Despite the ongoing military pressure on strongholds outside of Kabul, both the Taliban and IS-K can infiltrate the city to carry out mass casualty attacks in civilian areas, as well as targeted attacks against the security forces. IS-K have significantly stepped-up the number of attacks they have conducted in the city since 2016.
Though there could be a slight lull in major attacks in Kabul in the coming weeks, it is not anticipated that the new enhanced security measures will have any significant long-lasting effect in terms of deterring or preventing attacks. It will likely make travelling around Kabul more challenging due to increased congestion.
The Taliban’s annual Spring Offensive typically starts in April, resulting in a further elevated threat of attacks in the capital.
Though the Taliban remains by far the most dominant armed opposition group (AOG), both groups will continue to compete for influence by conducting high-profile attacks in Kabul throughout 2018.
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