The assault ended only after NATO helicopters joined the battle, killing three of the insurgents on the hotel’s roof. Still, NATO officials took a more sanguine view of the performance of the Afghan police, saying that they had fought well, once they had their forces arrayed at the scene. “They acquitted themselves pretty well — it could have been a whole lot worse,” said a Western official.
But for the hotel guests, many of whom jumped over the perimeter walls, plunged into irrigation ditches or cowered in closets to escape the attackers, the police response was not only slow, but also cowardly. Several witnesses said police officers ran away or refused to shoot.
Guests milling outside the hotel on Wednesday morning said that without the assistance of the NATO forces, the mayhem would have gone on much longer.
“The main question in Kabul, and on the cusp of transition, is, Are they ready?” said another Western official here, referring to the police. “The Intercontinental attack introduces doubt, and if the transition is supposed to be based on the security conditions, then the conditions haven’t been met.”