Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged continued U.S. vigilance in Afghanistan following a series of attacks in and around the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, and she said American civilians who are serving in the Afghan capital will continue their work to improve the lives of Afghan men, women and children.
Speaking in Washington September 13, Clinton said the Obama administration “will take all necessary steps not only to ensure the safety of our people, but to secure the area and to ensure that those who perpetrated this attack are dealt with.”
According to press reports, Afghan insurgents engaged in a 20-hour assault targeting the embassy with rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and small arms fire. By the time the assault ended on September 14, at least nine Afghans, including four police officers, were killed, and 23 people including civilians were wounded.
Among the injured were three U.S. visa applicants and one local contract guard, according to a September 13 statement from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
“Our thoughts are with these individuals and the other victims of the terrorist attacks that happened today in Kabul. We appreciate the response of the Afghan National Security Forces whose operations stopped the attack on the embassy compound,” the embassy statement said.
Clinton said the U.S. presence in Kabul includes civilians who “are there with the sole purpose of assisting the people of Afghanistan in a transition toward stability, security and prosperity.”
“They will not be intimidated by this kind of cowardly attack,” she said. “While they work hard every day along with their Afghan colleagues to help children go to school, to help save mothers’ lives at childbirth, to build roads, to assist farmers, the opposition of violent extremists, the Taliban and their allies engage in a constant effort to threaten and to undermine the peace and progress of the Afghan people.”
The secretary said U.S. officials will be vigilant but will also increase their commitment to give the Afghan people “a chance at a better future for themselves and their children.”
In remarks to U.S. lawmakers at a joint hearing of the House of Representatives and Senate intelligence committees September 13, Central Intelligence Agency director David Petraeus said one of the injured Afghan citizens waiting for a U.S. visa was a small girl. She was taken across the street to a hospital at the headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan.
Petraeus said that perhaps five individuals armed with weapons and suicide vests carried out the attacks and “were able to move into a building that’s under construction several hundred meters from the embassy” before firing small arms and RPGs into the embassy compound area.
He said that, in general, the frequency of attacks in Kabul has been reduced and that Afghan forces are “completely in charge” of security in their capital city and its municipality.
“In fact it is Afghan forces who are … clearing the building from which that small arms and RPG attack took place,” he said. “There are very good Afghan forces. They have demonstrated the ability to do this and they are indeed again doing it right now.”
The United States remains engaged in Afghanistan to ensure that it is “never again a sanctuary” for transnational extremists such as al-Qaida, which planned the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States from Afghanistan while the country was under control of the Taliban.
“That prospect remains real and a concern, and is of course why we are working so hard to help enable our Afghan partners to be able to secure and to govern themselves so that we can continue the orderly process of transitioning security tasks to them,” Petraeus said.