UN Afghan guest house attack.

Afghan soldiers gather as smoke rises from a U.N. guest house after it was attacked by gunmen in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009. (Altaf Qadri / AP Photo)

By Frank James

Wednesday's Taliban attack on the United Nations compound in Kabul, Afghanistan which killed 11 has caused Westerners to rethink their security precautions, according to NPR's Soraya Sahaddi Nelson who's in Afghanistan.

Three attackers dressed as Afghan police and wearing suicide belts stormed the compound just before dawn, Kabul-time, firing semiautomatic weapons.

Nelson had a brief conversation with All Things Considered host Robert Siegel.

She told Robert:

"Today in Kabul no foreigners came outside. Everybody basically was ordered to stay indoors. And the UN is going to have to review its procedures to see whether it will be able to go out into the community...
"... The Taliban have made it very clear ... They were going to disrupt this election process and that today was only the start. The problem that is also out there for election workers is how much are they going to be able to prevent fraud from happening if they can't go out and see what's going on? This task has fallen to the Western observers and the Western commission and, again, because of today's attack, everyone is going to have to review their security procedures to see whether or not they can actually be outside and be part of this election process...

In response to Robert's question as to whether people in the capital were "shocked" about the brazen attack, Soraya said:

"It was very shocking especially because you can't recognize these places as being Western compounds. I mean while they do have barbed wire and you do have guards in front, you have a lot of Afghan officials who live in that sort of environment as well. And certainly this guest house was not well known as a UN guest house. It wasn't clear to many Westerners, certainly, that there were in fact UN people living there."

What's really striking about today's attack is how it reinforces the sense that the security situation has deteriorated so much in Afghanistan that even the capital city is no longer relatively safe.

That hadn't been the case the past year. Before that, Kabul was viewed by journalists who have been in and out of Afghanistan as an island of relative calm in a turbulent country. There was the joke about Afghan President Hamid Karzai being more like the mayor of Kabul since that was pretty much all he controlled.

But now Kabul appears to be joining the rest of the country in terms of Taliban's ability to strike at will in the national capital.

categories: Afghanistan

3:54 - October 28, 2009