*With no disrespect intended to the ISAF troops who've been hammering and bleeding in the valleys of east central Afghanistan for years. Kunar, Nuristan, Kapisa and Laghman have been shitty for a long time; they just don't get the press that the southern deserts do.
Baghlan, Samangan, Takhar and other northern provinces have been heating up for several months now. The Germans have been having a hard time in Kunduz for at least a year.* Dramatic evidence of that can be found in yesterday's attack on a the compound of a USAID subcontractor in Kunduz.
*Incidentally, the Germans in Kunduz are receiving some reinforcements from the US Army's 10th Mountain Division this summer. We'll soon know if the problems in Kunduz are because of German's inept handling of the population, or a more intractable problem.
The subcontractor, an outfit called DAI, apparently got off fairly lightly, given that half a dozen suicide attackers got in the main gate in a matter of minutes. Apparently, many of the Western staff took refuge on the roof while the security guards and responding police fought it out with the Taliban. That many attackers inside the perimeter is a recipe for disaster and it could have been much worse. I suspect that when the details come out we'll find out that both the private security guards and the ANP performed admirably. Nevertheless, at least one German and one Filipino and possibly a Brit, along with at least one cop, were killed.
Coming on the heels of the attacks on Bagram, KAF and Fob Fenty (at Jalalabad Airfield), it seems that the bad guys have a new plan to hit a variety of targets across the country and aren't too troubled by the fact that they're not usually all that successful. USAID and other developement agencies are considerably softer targets than major ISAF bases, and it won't take much to drive them out of the provinces and back to the more secure compounds in Kabul. Without development assistance, nothing in the provinces gets better for the local residents and this whole enterprise becomes "the island of Kabul in a sea of insurgents."
Like I've said about the Taliban before, scumbags they may be, but they're clever scumbags.
Update: Tim Lynch over at Free Range International has some more information on recent happenings in formerly secure Jalalabad and the activity in the eastern provinces. As always, he has photos which I never seem to have the time to do.
Update #2: Feral Jundi has more details on the Kunduz attack. Apparently, the Brit, the German and the two Afghans who were killed were security guards employed by Edinburgh International. A dark day for a fine outfit, but EI can be proud of their people today. Without their quick reaction and tenacious defense, it could have been a lot worse.