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Kabul Attack Leaves 21 Dead, Casts Shadow Over Obama's Exit Strategy

The six-hour attack on Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel ended early Wednesday morning and left 21 dead – 9 Afghan civilians, one Spanish civilian, and 11 terrorists. The attack was carried out by a group of men who ambushed the hotel with automatic weapons, grenades, and suicide belts. It is not clear yet which group the men belonged to, although the Taliban is taking credit.

According to ABC News’ Nick Shifrin, an “international official” reported that the group responsible is with the Haggani network. Haggani is a terrorist group separate from the Taliban, although both are based in Pakistan and share similar goals.

The Intercontinental was a heavily fortified hotel that regularly hosted foreign visitors. According to MSNBC: “Guests and visitors must pass through a roadblock and guards posted at the bottom of a hill that winds up to the building, then another checkpoint along the road before reaching the hotel where more security guards are set up in a building with metal detectors.”

The fact that such a heavily barricaded building was easily penetrated by terrorists is worrisome to many top officials. Doubt about Afghanistan’s ability to take over security measures once the international presence is gone, presumably by the end of 2014, continues to surge. Control of seven areas in Afghanistan will be given to Afghan forces in late July.

"There was a loophole in the security, definitely. Investigation will definitely take place. There was reconstruction and renovation work also going on in a part of the hotel," says Luftullah Marshal, Afghan National Security Directorate spokesman, as quoted by VOA.

"The insurgents are using every means to infiltrate into tight security areas."

VOA reports that NATO spokesman Master Sergeant Jason Haag indicated that the coalition forces were “mobilized at the request of the Afghan Ministry of the Interior, but the response was conducted primarily by the Afghan security forces.”

The attack is the worst the capital city has seen in months and sparks more concern over Obama’s decision to pull out 10,000 troops over the next year and 23,000 more by September 2012. The president’s plans are “more aggressive and incur more risk” than top military officials had originally advised, according to Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Eager to deaden the doubt about international troop withdrawal, Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced that the “transfer of responsibility to Afghan forces” would not be stopped by militants who enjoy the “killing of innocent people,” according to the Guardian.

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