Stung by numerous recent setbacks and by the Pakistani Intelligence Service’s change from an ally to an adversary, the Taliban turned for assistance to the traditional last resort of foundering guerrilla movements: the grand and gaudy symbolic attack on a US facility.
After all, when the Tet Offensive failed militarily and produced such staggering losses that the Viet Cong never recovered as a fighting force, Tet still wound up representing the key turning point of the war, when the international media led by CBS New’s Walter Cronkite pronounced it a major victory and declared the war unwinnable by the US. The symbolic victory that persuaded the pundits the VC had won was a failed attack on the US Embassy in Saigon by a 19 man sapper team.
The 1983 suicide truck bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut proved similarly effective. Despite public pledges to maintain a US military presence in Lebanon, the Reagan administration withdrew within a few months.
The attack in Peshawar was clearly designed as another publicity seeking suicide attack at a symbolic US target trying for a win in the newspaper headlines and the evening news broadcasts, leading to the crumbling of US resolve. When you reward a particular behavior, inevitably you get more of it.
Militants attempted to storm the US Consulate in Peshawar today as renewed violence in north-western Pakistan left more than 40 people dead.
Gunmen wearing paramilitary uniforms opened fire outside the consulate from two vehicles before several explosions shook the high-security district, which also houses key government offices.
The men fired mortars or rocket-propelled grenades at the heavily fortified compound in an attempt to get inside, a Pakistani intelligence official said.
â€œThey could not manage to get inside,â€ said Bashir Bilour, a senior provincial minister, adding that at least four attackers were killed by the security forces. He said several unexploded suicide jackets and a large quantity of explosive was also recovered from the scene.
A spokesman for the US Embassy in Islamabad said the militants had attempted to enter the building and fired grenades and other weapons.
At least four US security guards were injured. The US consulate has been attacked several times in the past.
Local television footage showed soldiers taking up positions around the consulate which was covered with grey smoke. Military helicopters circled the area which was cordoned off by the security forces. At least seven people were killed and several others injured in the attack.
Militants mounted an assault against the United States Consulate in this northern Pakistani city on Monday, using a powerful bomb and rocket launchers in a multipronged attack, said a senior Pakistani intelligence officer.
Pakistani soldiers watched smoke billowing from the scene of three bomb blasts near the United States consulates in Peshawar on Monday.
Five people were killed outside the consulate and about 20 were wounded, according to a senior government official.
The United States Embassy in Islamabad said that at least two Pakistani security guards employed by the consulate were killed in the attack, and that a number of others were seriously wounded. The embassy confirmed that the attack was coordinated, and said it involved â€œa vehicle suicide bomb and terrorists who were attempting to enter building using grenades and weapons fire.â€
Militants managed to damage barracks that formed part of the outer layer of security for the heavily fortified consulate area, but did not penetrate inside, the Pakistani intelligence officer said.
Pakistani television networks showed a giant cloud of dust and debris rising from the Saddar area, where the consulate is located, shortly after 1 p.m. Local media reported that there had been three blasts. Authorities cordoned off the area and gunfire was heard long after the explosions.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, and warned that â€œwe plan more such attacks,â€ Reuters reported.