There are no “I heart KBL” signs. No #jesuisbaghdad hashtags. No one is paying tribute to the rich cultural heritage and resilience of the targets. It is unlikely that we will come to recognise the names and faces of most victims. But the bombs that struck Kabul yesterday morning and were as devastating to their residents as a week earlier. That should not need saying, of course; yet the insecurity that Afghans and Iraqis face can blur the impact of atrocities into a general impression of perpetual chaos and pain for outsiders. That terror strikes so often – and particularly in the month of Ramadan – does not dull its effect on those who experience it. Repeated suffering compounds trauma.
In the case of in one of four bombings in the Iraqi capital that day, the parallels with the British attack were unmissable: among the 17 fatalities were mothers and young daughters out enjoying an evening’s innocent pleasure together, after breaking their Ramadan fast. The intended prey of the vast device that rocked the Afghan capital is less clear: it was hidden inside a sewage tanker, and the Nato-led Resolute Support mission in Kabul said Afghan security forces prevented it from entering the diplomatic zone, so its intended target may well have been foreign. But a bomb on this scale – leaving a crater perhaps 4 metres deep – was always going to claim civilian lives. , and the hundreds more who were injured, appear to have been ordinary workers. Just as in Manchester, families have been torn apart and their wider communities left fearful. And that is, of course, the purpose: to sow dread, division and a perpetual sense of uncertainty, of living on the brink of disaster.
Much about these attacks remains to be determined, though Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Baghdad attacks and its Amaq website said the attack on the ice-cream parlour in Karrada district targeted a “gathering of Shia”. It has an obvious motive to step up such attacks as it struggles to hold on to what remains of the caliphate it proclaimed; but, of course, it has pursued civilian targets through the years. Last year, 300 died when a bomber – claimed by Isis – during Ramadan.
Isis has staged large-scale terror attacks in Kabul; equally, the Taliban’s denials of involvement in Wednesday’s massive blast are not necessarily reliable. What is clear is that the Afghan attack is further evidence of the country’s deteriorating security situation following the departure of most western troops in 2014. Kabul is regarded as a more secure part of the country; if it cannot be protected, where can people feel safe? This attack will therefore, inevitably, figure in the United States’ decision . The prospect cannot inspire anyone with great hope; the western presence has proved itself incapable of supporting peace. Yet withdrawing more troops would likely be disastrous in both strategic and humanitarian terms. There is no exit in sight.
It also raises further questions about the European Union deal to deport unlimited numbers of Afghan asylum seekers whose claims have been refused, reached hanging over the head of Kabul and despite security concerns. Angela Merkel rightly stressed on Wednesday that terrorism “targets all of us whether in Manchester or Berlin, Paris, Istanbul, St Petersburg or today in Kabul”. But Germany is postponing, not reviewing, deportation flights, and that is on logistical grounds.
On Tuesday, hours after the blast, at the al-Faqma ice-cream parlour, plastering over cracks and repointing walls. By evening the streets and restaurants were full again with families, demonstrating the resilience that was feted in Manchester and is taken for granted in the places that must summon it time and time again.