KABUL (Reuters) - A 20-hour, multi-pronged attack by insurgents that shook Afghanistan's capital has shown the Taliban remain a formidable force and a fierce test to the country's security apparatus ahead of a planned withdrawal of foreign troops by 2014.
The United States and NATO praised Afghan police and soldiers for their handling of the carefully planned grenade, gun and suicide bomb attacks, but analysts questioned whether the marathon siege really ended in defeat for the Taliban.
TARAK BARKAWI, WAR STUDIES LECTURER, CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY
"It demonstrates very clearly, given the series of attacks, that security is not what one might imagine for Western powers looking to develop an exit strategy that depends on the quality of Afghan forces.
"It's clear the war is being lost. While the Western military are professionally optimistic, they are clear that ... the decent exit Iraq afforded them was not going to happen in Afghanistan.
"There's no regime standing with political legitimacy or a security apparatus that's going to be able to survive the departure of Western troops. If we follow that out, the departure of the West is going to produce another Afghan civil war.
GENERAL JOHN R. ALLEN, NATO COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN
"The attacks beginning yesterday afternoon were designed to derail transition... The insurgent attack did not succeed, it failed. This attack had no operational impact whatsoever, resulting only in the brutal and savage taking of innocent Afghan life.
"The insurgents are on the defensive. They are losing territory, they are losing support and they are losing confidence in their leaders who choose to give orders from the comfort of foreign lands.
"To compensate, the insurgents seek to frighten the Afghan people into submission through spectacular or high profile attacks. It is not working and it will not work. They will not win, they will lose. We will prevail."
KARL-HEINZ KAMP, HEAD OF RESEARCH, NATO Defense COLLEGE
"You can speculate for hours as to whether this is the re-emergence of the Taliban and whether NATO has failed, but it doesn't change the basics. NATO is on track, particularly the Americans, for withdrawing significantly anyway.
"Transition-wise, things are not rosy, because nothing can ever be rosy in Afghanistan, but they are not bad.
"Regardless of the problems in Afghanistan, the major goal of the Western engagement -- to destroy al Qaeda as a strategically significant force -- had been a success."
KARIM PAKZAD, ASSOCIATE RESEARCHER, IRIS, PARIS
"It's a political and symbolic message. The Taliban have struck psychologically and shown that there is no solution in Afghanistan without them. It confirms that the Taliban are capable of striking where and when they want.
"The west since 2009 has realized that the war in Afghanistan can't be won exclusively on the battlefield so it's the reason why we have seen a new strategy.
"The U.S. and NATO are encouraging the Afghan government to negotiate with the Taliban and even western countries such as the U.S. and Britain are talking to them."
BEN BARRY, SENIOR FELLOW FOR LAND WARFARE, INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES, LONDON
"The people who carry out the attacks are trying to create an impression among the Afghan public, the Afghan government, the U.S., NATO and the international community that transition is not working.
"One shouldn't write off transition on the basis of this. Quite clearly it is not satisfactory they are able to (infiltrate Kabul), but no-one ever said transition was going to be perfect. You've got to be realistic about this."
RYAN CROCKER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN
"This really is not a very big deal, a hard day for the Embassy and my staff, who behaved with enormous courage and dedication. I think it's actually a statement of their weakness and more importantly, since Kabul is in the hands of Afghan security, it's a real credit to the Afghan National Security Forces.
JONATHAN EYAL, DIRECTOR OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INSTITUTE, LONDON
"It is a reminder that ... the Taliban remains a fighting force still able to mount these kind of operations.
"The importing the violence again to the capital was intended from the beginning to be a message that the Taliban remains an important force to be reckoned with.
"The Americans continue to claim that the transition will proceed as though nothing has happened. But there are very important indications. If it is true that it was the Haqqani network which did it, it also indicates that the link between the Taliban, al Qaeda and elements inside the tribal areas of Pakistan continue unabated."
MICHAEL MANN, SPOKESMAN FOR EU FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHIEF CATHERINE ASHTON
"We strongly believe that such attacks shall not deter the efforts of the wider international community and the progress made thus far in supporting the Afghan people in reaching lasting peace and reconciliation in the country."
CARMEN ROMERO, NATO SPOKESWOMAN
"(NATO Secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen's) message has not changed: we have confidence in the Afghan authorities to deal with the situation and the Taliban are trying to test transition and they are not going to succeed."
BERNARD VALERO, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN
"We reaffirm our solidarity with the allies and Afghan authorities, who are working together to stabilize Afghanistan. The reaction of the Afghan forces supported by ISAF to end this attack, showed their efficiency.
"France remains committed side by side with the Afghan people in the framework of our transition strategy."
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom in Brussels, Adrian Croft and Michael Holden in London, John Irish in Paris and Emma Graham-Harrison in Kabul; Editing by Martin Petty and Sanjeev Miglani)