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

It's the second time the consulate has come under attack since it opened in 2010, Ghafoory noted. A rocket attack damaged part of the building last year.

The Herat consulate is near two popular city parks and Herat University, meaning the early-morning attack wasn't intended to inflict civilian casualties but gain Benghazi-style entry.

Afghan news agency Pajhwok reported that the car bombs were followed by a third attacker wearing a suicide vest who made it inside the gates before he detonated. "The attackers wore uniforms similar to those of the consulate guards," the report said, citing the local police chief. "…Helicopters were seen hovering over the consulate after the operation had ended and two copters were seen landing on the consulate premises."

The Taliban claimed responsibility and extrapolated the damage as they usually do: "A martyrdom attack on the US consulate in Herat city has caused the enemy forces heavy losses. … Following the explosion, 8 other lions of Islam equipped with explosives vests as well as heavy and light weapons penetrated inside the building and took up positions from where they targeted the enemy forces inside as well as those approaching from outside, sparking a three and a half clash during which some 27 foreign invaders were killed and wounded as well as 17 combined hireling troops killed and 35 others wounded besides the enemy sustaining heavy damage including 12 vehicles destroyed."

“We have proved with this attack that the Americans are safe nowhere,” Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi said in a statement issued to Pajhwok Afghan News.

Herat Gov. Said Fazel Waheed said "the complexity of actions today were beyond the capability of an Afghan."

Harf wouldn't say that the Taliban were behind the attack. "I would strongly note how we worked very closely and very well with them to secure this facility and to neutralize the attackers," she said. "…I would, again, remind everyone that there were no American casualties at this point, and just no American casualties, period, I should say."

"We are grateful for the quick response of the Afghan and ISAF security forces who secured the facility and kept our personnel safe. We thank the governor of Herat and the government of Afghanistan for their support and ongoing partnership," Ambassador James Cunningham said in a statement.

There wasn't much reaction on Capitol Hill over the first strike on a U.S. consulate since Benghazi.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said it showed the need to pass new embassy security legislation.

"Days after we paused to honor four brave Americans killed last year in Benghazi and pledged to move forward with renewed vigor to properly fund and secure our diplomatic posts overseas, we are reminded yet again of the severe challenges our personnel face, especially in high-risk, high-threat facilities," Menendez said.

"This unconscionable act cannot go unpunished and our forces, working with Afghan counterparts, must track down and strike back against those responsible," he continued. "At this critical juncture in our engagement in Afghanistan, attacks against our facilities cannot be tolerated by the Taliban or any other insurgent group."