Karzai criticises Afghans and Nato for failing to prevent Taliban attacks


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Afghan President Hamid Karzai said yesterday that a co-ordinated Taliban attack showed a "failure" by Afghan intelligence and especially by Nato as heavy street fighting between insurgents and security forces came to an end after 18 hours.

Battles that broke out at midday on Sunday gripped the city's central districts through the night, with large explosions and gunfire lighting up the streets.

"The fact terrorists were able to enter Kabul and other provinces was an intelligence failure for us and especially for Nato," Mr Karzai's office said in a statement.

The death toll was low considering the scale of the assault, but it highlighted the ability of militants to strike at high-profile targets in the heart of the city even after more than 10 years of war. Mr Karzai echoed his Western backers by praising Afghan security forces, saying they had proven their ability to defend their country – a task that will increasingly fall to them as foreign armies reduce their troop numbers in Afghanistan.

His office said 36 insurgents were killed in the attacks that paralysed Kabul's government district and targeted three other provinces. One fighter was captured. The Taliban called it the start of a spring offensive. Eleven members of the Afghan security forces and four civilians were killed in the well-planned attacks in Kabul and the eastern Nangarhar, Logar and Paktia provinces, it said.

"In only a short time we managed to cut short their devilish plans," the Defence Ministry's chief of operations, Afzal Aman, said. "They carried suicide vests, but managed to do nothing except be killed."

The attacks were an election-year setback in Afghanistan for US President Barack Obama, who wants to present the campaign against the Taliban as a success before the departure of troops in 2014.