At a popular Kabul restaurant, the front lines of Afghanistan's war

Tue Jan 21, 2014 7:57am EST
 
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By Jessica Donati

KABUL (Reuters) - For Kabul's expatriate crowd, a visit to a restaurant in the Afghan capital's well-guarded diplomatic area was one of the few attractions of living in the war-ravaged nation.

Not anymore.

Last week, a suicide attack by Taliban insurgents at a popular Lebanese restaurant killed 21 people, including 13 foreigners, among them the IMF's chief representative in Afghanistan and three United Nations workers. It was the deadliest attack on foreign civilians since Afghanistan's civil war began in 2001.

Major international organizations have placed Kabul's restaurants out of bounds for their staff, possibly making it a turning point for the few thousand diplomats, aid workers and journalists living there.

Even before the strike, there were doubts about the future of international organizations in Afghanistan as concern mounted that with the withdrawal of most foreign troops this year, the security environment would only get worse.

"We've had tragedies before. But when it happens at this time, you've got organizations thinking about their liability and exposure, I wonder what the ripple effects of this one are going to be," said a senior NATO official, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

On Friday night, the busiest night of the week, a Taliban militant set off explosives on his person outside the Taverna du Liban restaurant, and two others rushed in behind with automatic rifles, spraying diners with bullets.

The attack is likely to quicken the exodus of foreigners from Afghanistan, but it remains to be seen how deep the impact will be on development projects and aid.   Continued...

 
A guest talks on the phone inside the Sufi Restaurant in Kabul January 20, 2014. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani