Roof of Intercontinental hotel is lit up by explosion during battle between NATO-led forces and suicide bombers and Taliban insurgents in Kabul
Roof of Intercontinental hotel is lit up by explosion during battle between NATO-led forces and suicide bombers and Taliban insurgents in Kabul

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday responded to criticism as he assured that that his army and police would be ready to take over from foreign forces as planned despite a brazen assault on one of Kabul's premier hotels that left 19 people dead, including all eight attackers.

The standoff Inter-Continental lasted more than five-hour only ended when NATO helicopters fired rockets at Taliban gunmen on the roof raising fears that the Taliban will try to recuperate the country as soon as Nato and U.S troops complete full withdrawal.

The attack remains one of the biggest and most complex attacks orchestrated in the Afghan capital and analysts already say that the move was motivated by the Taliban's will to show they are still capable of striking even in the capital, a base for the Karzai regime and discredit U.S. officials claims that the many achievements made in the last ten years indicate that the country can now stand on its own.

Last week, as President Barack Obama announced the beginning of a U.S. troop withdrawal he indicated that the transfer of security responsibility to the Afghans authorities is due to start in the Kabul province in coming weeks.

However, in a defiant move, militants, armed with explosive vests, anti-aircraft weapons and grenade launchers, began the attack on the Intercontinental around 10 p.m on Tuesday and witnesses told the Associated Press that the fighters occupied all floors, going from room to room killing all foreign guests.

After hours of fighting, two NATO helicopters opened fire at about 3 a.m. on the roof of the six-story hotel where militants had taken up positions. U.S. Army Maj. Jason Waggoner, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting in Afghanistan, said the helicopters killed three gunmen and Afghan security forces clearing the hotel engaged the insurgents as they worked their way up to the roof.

A final explosion occurred a few hours later when one of the bombers who had been hiding in a room blew himself up long after ambulances had carried the dead and wounded from the hotel, according to Kabul Police Chief Gen. Mohammad Ayub Salangi.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, the coalition and Karzai all condemned the attack.

The militants are "enjoying the killing of innocent people," Karzai said in a statement.

"Such incidents will not stop us for transitioning security of our country" to Afghan forces, the President added.

U.S. Rear Adm. Vic Beck, director of public relations for the international military coalition, praised the Afghan forces quick response and NATO officials said coalition troops also were partnered with some of the units involved in the incident.

"This attack will do nothing to prevent the security transition process from moving forward," Beck said.

Afghan police were the first to respond to the attack, and a few hours later, an Afghan National Army commando unit arrived to help.

"We were locked in a room. Everybody was shooting and firing," Abdul Zahir Faizada, head of the local council in Herat province in western Afghanistan, told reporters, "I heard a lot of shooting."

Meanwhile, Latifullah Mashal, the spokesman of the Afghan National Directorate for Security, said five of the suicide attackers blew themselves up and three were killed on the roof by coalition helicopters.

The 11 civilians killed included a judge from an unnamed province, five hotel workers and three Afghan policemen, Mashal said. The Ministry of Interior said a Spanish citizen also was among those killed, but no other information was disclosed.

The ministry said 18 people were wounded in the attack including 13 civilians and five policemen.

The attack came just when both the U.S and the U.K have admitted they have entered negotiation with the Taliban, which will prove problematic for both governments. As the Islamist movement has claimed responsibility for the attack, it becomes clear they were never serious about making compromise. Ten years down the line then, and the situation has gone back to it starting point.