Kabul awoke to yet another bomb blast this morning and, from the looks of it, it was a big one:
Arriving at the blast site roughly six hours after detonation, it was a scene of security officers corralling municipal workers, journalists and curious Afghan onlookers (I being continuously mistaken for the latter) amongst the wreckage, while they themselves tried to take in the enormity of the blast.
In the crowd, an old man announced that we were all "clinging to Bush's testicles" and that from our "fancy cars, only cared about this life and have no regard for the next," before a security official angrily chased him away. Something could have been lost in the translation.
A steady exodus of foreigners from the Heetal hotel passed by car or on foot, rolling their suitcases through the debris. A few stopped to pose for a parting shot in front of the collapsed buildings.
The blast crater, said to be a meter deep and two meters wide, had been filled with rubble (see second video). The black SUV carrying the payload was reportedly hurled through the air by the explosion. The soft-shelled SUVs in the vicinity were reduced to charred and twisted metal. The armored variety remaining surprisingly intact:
Violence in Kabul has been steady since this summer's elections but there are concerning reports that while the Taliban were once knocking on the gates of Kabul, they are now banging on its very doors.
In striking one of Kabul's most affluent districts, their message is clear: anyone benefiting from the government's corrupt practices is fair game and cannot hide behind their check points and blast walls. Unfortunately, those actually caught in the blast were most likely guards and domestic staff.
President Karzai's former vice president, Ahmed Zia Massoud, whose house was damaged in the attack is thought to have been the intended target. Fittingly, the president himself was convening a conference on fighting corruption at the time of the attack.
Tackling corruption will no doubt deflate the Taliban cause, but after eight years of war and borrowing best practices from confederate insurgents in Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere, the tide will not turn on de-greased palms alone.