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Inside the Benghazi Anniversary Attack: Local Reports Show Gravity of Herat Consulate Assault

State Department says it was a quick response amid high security, but Afghan reporters say attackers made it in the gates and Special Forces arrived after a two-hour gunbattle.

by
Bridget Johnson

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September 13, 2013 - 6:30 pm
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A Taliban attack on a U.S. consulate in the early morning hours Friday initially highlighted longstanding fears in Congress of an accelerated withdrawal while President Obama insists that the war in the Afghanistan be ended by his hand.

Local reports of damage in Herat and the response, though, raise questions about just how much diplomatic security has been improved in the wake of the four deaths at Benghazi a year ago.

The feared repeat of a 9/11 Benghazi attack came two days after the anniversary when attackers deployed car bombs in an SUV and minivan at the gates to the U.S. consulate in northern Afghanistan, followed by a gun battle. Death tolls differed but the State Department said Friday afternoon that an interpreter was killed as well as three members of the Afghan police. As many as 20 civilians were injured by blown out windows in their homes. Seven attackers were killed.

The consulate, housed in a onetime five-star hotel, was not breached, the State Department stressed.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said at today’s press briefing that the attackers started with a car bomb, followed by an RPG fired at the consulate and another car bomb.

“We are again reminded of the very real human toll exacted by this kind of terrorism,” Harf said.

“…Consulate security neutralized several suicide bombers attempting to breach the compound. The consulate’s front gate was damaged, however the consulate’s interior compound was not breached. Our security measures here were effective. The attackers were utilized. Our interior perimeter was not breached and no American lives were lost.”

Harf expressed gratitude for “the quick response of the Afghan and the ISAF security forces who secured the facility and kept our personnel safe.”

Perhaps mindful of the post-Benghazi concerns about consulate security, she quickly added, “Diplomatic security staff and contract security employees were equally a part of the response.”

She said U.S. officials do live at the compound but were “temporarily relocated to Kabul at the moment.” A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Kabul said essential personnel stayed in Herat.

“I’m not aware of any specific threat reporting leading up to the attack in Herat,” Harf said. “Our security at all of our facilities in Afghanistan always operate at the highest level because it is an active war zone. So clearly, we — it’s something we constantly review, and we’ll continue to do so.”

The consulate is closed “for the time being.”

The report from Afghanistan’s TOLO News painted a grim picture of the assault, including attackers making it past the consulate gate.

“The attack began around 5:30am when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive-laden SUV near the main gate of the consulate and then a second explosive-laden mini-van hit the gate itself, allowing five other attackers to pass the first gate and open fire on security forces inside the compound,” TOLO’s Saboor Ghafoory reported.

“The assailants engaged in a gun-battle with consulate security personnel and the Afghan forces for nearly two hours until they were finally shot and killed. The scene was reportedly secured by 7:30am.”

Afghanistan’s first 24/7 news channel said Afghan National Army and special unit soldiers responded to the consulate to assist the guards and U.S. forces stationed there, yet reported “after the attack ended, American Special Forces came to the site and entered the consulate to secure the building.”

A reporter on the scene just minutes after the first explosion, TOLO’s Jawed Zyratjahi, said the main gate was broken and windows were blown out of the seven-story consulate. “The magnitude of the explosions in front of the consulate gate were so immense that the windows of houses within 1 kilometer of the attack were shattered as well.”

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Top Rated Comments   
Don't rule out Iran on this. Herat is very close to the Iranian border.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Expect more and worse, now that Obama has signaled unconditional retreat from the Middle East, and abject cowardice ... er, excuse me, smart diplomacy ... everywhere else.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
" Special Forces arrived after a two-hour gunbattle."

Well at least they sent somebody, unlike Benghazi. They must not have had anything big to coverup and there's no election coming up soon. And they probably didn't ask Obama anyway.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (12)
All Comments   (12)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
We can expect increased attacks on American consulates and the Embassy.
If one reads Lady Florentina Sale's "Journal of the First Afghan War," the reader learns that as British forces withdrew from Kabul in the 19th century, the retreat was devastating.
"On January 6, 1842, a force that with its followers of 16,000 marched from Kabul under an illusionary safe conduct, and one week later later Surgeon William Brydon rode alone into Jellalabad - the only British survivor. Men, women, children lad dead long the ninety mile route, some killed by ruthless Afghan enemy, the rest frozen to death in the snow."
Unless the Pentagon is prepared for a protected withdrawal in 2014, the date that Obama has signaled to the Taliban ahead of time, the U.S. will suffer the same fate as the British did in the 19th century.
I am not sure Obama knows much about anything, certainly not about history and military history specifically, but the tune-up response by the agents of death at this Consulate is a warning to those who have ears to hear and minds that understand the fact that history does teach valued lessons. One must read history first and then anticipate the likely response one needs to take, based on past performance in the theater of war.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
You should read William Dalrymple's "Return of a King", a new history of the First Anglo-Afghan War 1838-1842. Uses many more contemporary accounts, including Lady Sale's journal. She survived the Retreat From Kabul only because some officer's wives were taken hostage. When you read about Britain's response, the Army of Retribution, you start understanding why Afghanistan is what it is!

Dalrymple ends his history by retracing the Retreat, and one of his Afghan guides says "Next it will be China's turn"

The Taliban are not indigenous in Herat, not even during the 1990's civil war.
The Afghan Taliban are mostly Ghilzai Pashtuns. Pakistan Taliban is mostly Mehsud Pashtuns (with a longstanding blood fued with the Yousefzai Pashtuns who dominate Pakistan's Swat Valley.

I wish every report today would identify the 'Taliban' tribal afffiliation.

There was a recent report about the difficulties the USA/NATO forces are having in removing supplies, vehicles, etc. Seems the Afghans wanted 70milUSD in 'tariffs' to exit to Peshawar. USA refused to pay. PROOF that no one reads history. The First Anglo-Afghan War started in part when Britain told the Ghilzais they had to take a pay cut. After the disaster that was the Retreat from Kabul, the British learned their lesson: Pay the Pashtuns.

But Herat has always been Persian, not Pashtun.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here's a silly, nonsensical statement by the State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf.....

"Our security measures here were effective. The attackers were utilized. ...."

How were these attackers ....."utilized"......?

Nonsense like this is why we pay so little attention to what the State Department says about anything.

Out of "Foggy Bottom", indeed.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
I noticed "utilized" also. He probably either said or meant neutralized.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well the Obama/Biden regime is in full retreat from the area and we will soon see the helicopters on the roof of the embassy evacuating American personnel. Prepare America to receive millions of displaced Islamic afghans who will be flooding our shores in a short time and adding to the number of democrat voters in future elections. America is doomed and it is time to wake up.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why is everyone in the press so abysmally stupid?
Look at what the governor of Herat said. He said that because he's trying to provide a hint - one which should be EXTREMELY obvious.
These terrorists, and their comrades, are equipped, trained, sheltered, given logistics and intelligence support by.....P A K I S T A N. Specifically, the ISI.
America is now in the same kind of war that India has been fighting in Jammu-Kashmir for 66 years. There is only ONE way out - the afghans need to be trained and motivated to handle their own border and internal security. Otherwise, an American withdrawal will result in a re-occupied Afghanistan that will become a magnificent base for jihadists the world over.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Next time, can we just nuke both AFghanistan and Pakistan and let who-ever's left climb out of the smoking rubble? And *not* rebuild anything. Quarantine the whole region. I know Pakistan is supposed to have their own nukes, but there is such a thing as radiation decay and as far as I know they haven't touched one off in decades, so I refuse to believe that the Paki's are a nuclear power any more.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Don't rule out Iran on this. Herat is very close to the Iranian border.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Expect more and worse, now that Obama has signaled unconditional retreat from the Middle East, and abject cowardice ... er, excuse me, smart diplomacy ... everywhere else.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Another way of looking at this Central Asian enemy Muslim mess is that after a decade of very bloody American and British combat involvement there, supplemented by the horrendous waste of countless zillions of dollars and materiel falling into who knows whose out-of-country bank accounts, and unknown Muslim enemy hands [Pakistani?] because of the impossibility of any effective accounting procedures....why, oh, why should we Americans continue with this folly?

Forget "Obama signaling unconditional retreat form the Middle East"; forget Obama altogether.

Pragmatic common sense say get away from the futility and folly of thinking we have allies in these vipers Karzai and Maliki.

We Americans are being very skillfully used by these Muslim leaders of these artificially bordered entities".

Remember that we could stay inside that arena for decades more, shedding more young American blood......to what end? The Afghanis, Iraqis, and Pakistanis simply aren't worth our blood.

Leave that arena and quarantine it. Let these Muslims cannibalize each other. We'll hold their coats while being offstage, for a welcome change.








49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Harf expressed gratitude for “the quick response of the Afghan and the ISAF security forces who secured the facility and kept our personnel safe.”

The Afghan "security forces" were probably in on the attack.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
" Special Forces arrived after a two-hour gunbattle."

Well at least they sent somebody, unlike Benghazi. They must not have had anything big to coverup and there's no election coming up soon. And they probably didn't ask Obama anyway.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
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