United States ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker said Wednesday that his embassy was hit with six grenades in a Taliban attack, but played down the insurgents’ raid as “not a very big deal”.
The attack launched on Tuesday lasted for 19 hours and left 14 people dead in a barrage of gunfire and suicide blasts targeting the US embassy and the neighbouring headquarters of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan.
Crocker said at least six rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) landed in the embassy compound although officials had earlier said that injuries there were limited to three Afghan visa applicants and one Afghan security guard.
“This really is not a very big deal, a hard day for the embassy and my staff who behaved with enormous courage and dedication,” he said in a pooled media interview.
“Half a dozen RPG rounds from 800 metres away — that isn’t Tet (a key offensive in the Vietnam war), that’s harassment.”
Crocker blamed the attack on the Haqqani network, a Taliban-allied insurgent group with bases across the disputed porous border in Pakistan that focuses on operations in eastern Afghanistan.
“The information available to us is that these attackers… are part of the Haqqani network, they enjoy safe haven in northern Waziristan (in Pakistan).”
Crocker also said he thought the nature of the attack showed a lack of strength among insurgents and paid tribute to the response of the Afghan security forces.
“If that’s the best they can do, you know, I think it’s actually a statement of their weakness and more importantly, since Kabul is in the hands of Afghan security, it’s a real credit to the Afghan National Security Forces,” he said.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted that the “brave” Americans working at the embassy in Afghanistan would not be deterred by the attack.
The raid was launched by a team of insurgents who holed up in a high-rise building which is under construction and overlooks both the US embassy and the headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
It was eventually brought to an end by Afghan and coalition forces on Wednesday.