Taliban's bombing at base hosting Cheney was a propaganda victory (Afghanistan)

BAGRAM, Afghanistan (28.02.2007) - The suicide attacker had no hope of getting past the security at the Bagram Air Base to attack Vice President Dick Cheney. In addition to the 5,100 U.S. troops, there are land mines, gun turrets and razor wire.


But the attack - which killed 23 people, including two Americans - was a propaganda victory anyway for the resurgent Taliban, who are seeking to wear down public support for the Afghan government and the U.S.-led coalition that supports it.

The bomber struck Bagram's outer gate at about 10 a.m., and U.S. military officials declared a "red alert" at the base while Cheney was rushed to a bomb shelter. Cheney, who had been stranded at the base overnight by a snowstorm, met with President Hamid Karzai in the capital before heading back to the United States via the Gulf state of Oman.

"I heard a loud boom," Cheney told reporters aboard Air Force Two en route to Oman. "The Secret Service came in and told me there had been an attack on the main gate."

Many of the victims were said to be Afghan truck drivers waiting to get inside the base. A dozen men - many of them sobbing heavily - left the base holding stretchers bearing their loved ones wrapped in black body bags.

Although the bomber did not get closer than roughly a mile to the vice president, the attack highlighted an increasingly precarious security situation posed by the resurgent Taliban five years after U.S.-led forces toppled their regime. There were 139 suicide bombings last year, a fivefold increase over 2005, and a fresh wave of violence is expected this spring.

The guerrillas, according to NATO officials, have the flexibility to organize an attack quickly and may have been able to plan the bombing after hearing news reports on Monday that Cheney was delayed by bad weather. Col. Tom Collins, the top spokesman for the NATO force, said the Taliban had a cell in Kabul that could have traveled the 30 miles north to Bagram.

President Bush was not awakened to be told about the attack, but received an update early Tuesday morning. White House press secretary Tony Snow said Bush's first reaction was to ask if Cheney was OK.

Von: 28.02.2007 www.azstarnet.com

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