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AFGHANISTAN/ The Taliban attacked Kabul to strike at the US and Europe

Newspaper director GIANNI RIOTTA comments on the simultaneous suicide bombings in Afghanistan and how they were aimed at encouraging the withdrawal of foreign troops. 

Protests in Afghanistan   (Infophoto) Protests in Afghanistan (Infophoto)

Hell has suddenly returned to Kabul. Islamic extremists launched at least eight simultaneous attacks, setting fire to several nerve centers of the city. They tried to enter Parliament, and hit the compound of President Karzai, the Kabul Star and Serena hotels and several buildings including a supermarket. Seven explosions were also heard in the armored district of the embassies. It seems that a few rockets hit the Russian and German ones. The ISAF Camp Warehouse (10 kilometers east of the capital) and the Jalalabad airport were also assaulted. For the moment, the count is 16 dead, including civilians, policemen and suicide bombers. Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, has taken responsibility for the attacks, assigning the blame, however, to the Americans. He explained, in fact, that this Bloody Sunday was in revenge for the burning of the Quran at the NATO base. We asked Gianni Riotta, director of the Italian newspaper La Stampa, to interpret the event.

What was the reason behind yesterday’s attacks?
They were addressed to the American and European public, with the intention of convincing them of the futility of war and the impossibility of winning it. In this way, the Taliban are trying to urge the countries involved to withdraw their troops. It is no coincidence that these attacks took place right in the middle of the French and American election campaigns. Next year, there will also be elections in Italy and Germany. It was an act comparable to the Tet offensive in Vietnam in '68. Militarily, it was a resounding defeat, while politically, it was an extraordinary victory.

Do you think they succeeded in undermining public opinion?
In Europe, I would say yes. The Europeans, in fact, are about to withdraw. On the American front, even those who do not number among the "doves" are very grim. The President of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, revealed to me in an interview for La Stampa that he is very pessimistic about the future of the country. Just as, moreover, the average U.S. citizen is decidedly skeptical about the possibility of victory.

After the Bush era, is the U.S. still interested in staying in Afghanistan?