It’s hard to get a bead on exactly what’s happening on the campus of the American University in Kabul right now, but reports from earlier in the day said that one or possibly two gunmen attacked the university after detonating a car bomb at its front gate. At least one civilian has reportedly been killed along with one attacker, though it seems that the situation is still developing as authorities are looking for a possible second attacker. So it’s likely too early to say exactly how high the casualty figures are or will be once everything is settled. Obviously this is still unfolding and I’ll try to keep updating as I learn more.
There are no shortage of suspects for any attack like this in Kabul, with the (Afghan) Taliban and ISIS topping the list. It’s worth noting that this attack comes in the wake of a new round of Taliban offensives over the past couple of weeks. Helmand province, one of the Taliban’s perennial targets, is in serious danger of falling to the Taliban, who have encircled the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. The situation is dire enough that it was announced on Monday that 100 US troops have been deployed to Lashkar Gah, and yesterday US special forces sergeant Matthew Thompson (who was apparently not part of the 100-person deployment) was killed in Helmand in fighting with the Taliban. Meanwhile, all the way over in northeastern Afghanistan, in Takhar province (quite a distance from Helmand, which is in the southwestern part of the country), the Khwaja-Ghar district reportedly fell into Taliban control on Monday, though the fighting there appears to be ongoing.
The sheer distance between Helmand and Takhar tells you that the Taliban remain quite capable of projecting force throughout Afghanistan, which is certainly not what you’d want to see if you were a fan of peace and stability in Afghanistan, or if you’d put money on the Afghan war finally coming to a close sometime this year (or, hell, next year). It’s obviously far too soon to say that this attack in Kabul was perpetrated by the Taliban, but even if it wasn’t they’re causing plenty of trouble for the Afghan government these days.
UPDATE: Police found and killed the second attacker, so it appears this situation is finally under control. As expected, the death toll has begun climbing now that the scene can be fully investigated; so far, 12 people are reported dead.
UPDATE 2: The count for now stands at 16 dead, 53 wounded, but there are still several victims who were critically wounded and may not survive. No claims of responsibility so far, which may mean nothing but may indicate that it wasn’t the Taliban, which could then mean a Taliban splinter group and/or ISIS. We know from Turkey that ISIS doesn’t claim responsibility when it sees a potential strategic advantage in uncertainty, and since the American University in Kabul seems to have fairly broad popular support, it’s not out of the question that a group hostile to the US, the Kabul government, and the Taliban might have carried out this attack, targeting an American symbol in Kabul, with the hopes that the Taliban would catch hell for it. Obviously that’s speculation, but if this was a Taliban attack then I’m not seeing the rationale for not claiming it.