KABUL, Afghanistan – Taliban militants attacked the U.S. consulate in western Afghanistan early today, using a car bomb and guns to battle security forces just outside the compound in the city of Herat. It was not entirely clear whether any attackers managed to breach the facility, but at least two Afghan defenders died, while the U.S. said its personnel were all safe.
The attack, which also injured several people and wound up leaving five alleged militants dead, underscored the perilous security situation in Afghanistan, where U.S.-led troops are reducing their presence ahead of a full withdrawal next year. The insurgent strikes are no longer concentrated in the country’s south and east but occur with troubling frequency in the north and west, which have been the more peaceful areas in years past.
Today’s – which was claimed by the Taliban – followed a day and a half of exceptional joy in Afghanistan, as people of all backgrounds celebrated their nation’s first international soccer championship.
Afghan and U.S. officials offered slightly different accounts of the attack.
According to Herat province officials, the attack began around 6 a.m. with a powerful explosion caused by a suicide car bomber some 60 yards from the front gate of the consulate compound. Fellow militants then engaged in a firefight with security forces in the area.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the assault began around 5:30 a.m., when “a truck carrying attackers drove to the front gate, and attackers – possibly firing rocket propelled grenades and assault rifles – commenced attacking Afghan Protective forces on the exterior of the gates and contracted security guards. Shortly after, the entire truck exploded, extensively damaging the front gate.”
Gen. Rahmatullah Safi, the province’s chief of police, said U.S. special forces entered the area to secure the compound and that no attackers managed to breach it. Harf’s statement said “American security personnel” were among the response team and added that “it appears American and contract security personnel addressed any attackers who managed to enter the compound.”