Afghan officials said today they would not be deterred by the "coward enemies" that attacked Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel late Tuesday night in a brazen assault that left 20 dead.
"The transition process will be done, and these coward enemies will not stop our plans," chairman of the transition committee Ashraf Ghani said, according to The Associated Press.
More than five hours after insurgents unleashed a deadly assault on Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel Tuesday night, Afghan commandos in night-vision goggles managed to retake the hotel with the help of NATO special operations forces -- but not before nine civilians, two police and all nine attackers were killed. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack shortly after it began.
Afghan officials, including provincial governors, were having dinner at the Intercontinental ahead of a conference on security transition that began today, but none were killed in the attack, Afghan Interior Minister Gen. Bismillah Khan Mohammadi said. Afghan forces are scheduled to take charge of security in some areas of the country starting in July.
Earlier this month President Obama ordered the U.S. military to withdraw more than 30,000 troops from Afghanistan by the summer of 2012, part of a three and a half year plan of transition that will hand over security duties in seven provinces and cities to Afghan military and police. Tuesday's attack, Obama said today, shows that U.S. work in the country "is not done."
"The Taliban is still active [and] there's still going to be events like this on occassion," Obama said in a press briefing. "[But] Kabul is much safer than it was. Afghan forces in Kabul are much more capable than they were. That doesn't mean that they're not going to be events like this potentially taking place and that will probably go on for some time."
NATO Ends Stand-Off With Rocket Fire
At least one suicide bomber blew himself up at the hotel entrance late Tuesday night and at least four explosions were heard.
But battle only ended after special operations forces troops in a NATO helicopter circled over the hotel fired at three insurgents on the roof. Two Americans were in the hotel during the attack, but both survived, according to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. One Spanish pilot was killed in the attack, according to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who expressed his condolences in a press release.
It is not known if there was a particular target staying at the hotel, which sits on a hill above the city, or if the target was the hotel itself.
The attack occurred while guests were having dinner and at least two weddings were taking place. Police said they cut power to the hotel and the entire surrounding neighborhood, cordoning off streets leading to the hotel.
The Intercontinental Hotel is the most famous hotel in Afghanistan and one of the icons of Kabul, where many Westerners and Afghan officials stay and hold meetings.