By Col. Gregory Breazile
KABUL, Afghanistan — Just over a week ago I was standing in Kabul, Afghanistan, listening to the rat-a-tat-tat of machine gun fire and periodic explosions as insurgents were attacking in the middle of the city.
The attack was not very far away but we were not called to action as the Afghan police, army, and firemen responded to the initial explosion.
The insurgents began the attack with a suicide bomber in a traffic circle near some government buildings and a shopping center. After the explosion other insurgents ran into the shopping center, armed with automatic weapons, grenades and suicide vests. These insurgents were set on inflicting as many casualties as possible and creating as much damage as possible.
What amazed us was how the Afghan forces responded to the attack. The Afghan forces were able to contain the insurgents and minimize the number of casualties. A total of 12 people were killed in this attack including seven insurgents. This is a remarkable statistic based on the amount of firepower the insurgents brought to the fight and the fact they were going to fight to the death.
What actually happened was that the first responders from the Afghan police showed up and began engaging the insurgents. Additionally, elite Afghan army units quickly arrived and also began engaging the enemy.
The Afghan forces were able to cordon off the area and continue the fight until all insurgents were killed. There were countless police and firemen that arrived on the scene and began securing the routes into the area and fighting back against the insurgents. The fight raged on for about five hours and in the end all of the insurgents had been killed and the shopping center was badly damaged.
This attack highlighted that the Afghan first responders knew how to coordinate a proper response and deal with the situation in a swift and efficient manner. When compared to similar attacks in other countries this type of attack has often taken days to stop. This attack only took a matter of hours, which is a testament to the capabilities of the police, army and firemen in the local area.
We had people from the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan in the police and army command centers at the time of the attack and they witnessed as the police, army and firemen coordinated their response to the attack.
As a result of the attack, the Afghan government has also recognized many policemen, soldiers, and firemen for their heroic actions. During this fight there were many heroic acts by the Afghan forces. One such hero was an Afghan army first lieutenant who killed a suicide bomber before he could detonate himself, thus saving the lives of those around him.
Regardless of the criticism many people may have over the quality of the Afghan forces they must credit the Afghans for their professional response to this attack. These types of attacks are not uncommon in a city of more than 3 million people, which is involved in a counterinsurgency conflict.
It’s how the Afghan’s respond to these attacks that matters. If we plan to eventually transition the lead for security to the Afghans they must continue to show progress like they did last week. Afghans securing Afghanistan is the answer and last week’s attack shows promise that they are working toward that goal.
Col. Gregory Breazile is the director of communication, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. He is a combat veteran with 26 years of Marine Corps service. He is a Stillwater native.