The building from which they fired rockets and rifles was a construction project that an Afghan family has spent a decade planning in exacting detail. When Mohammad Hashim’s relatives returned to their project after one of the most gruesome attacks in this city’s recent history, their brainchild was littered with the detritus of a complex urban assault — one of at least seven attacks that paralyzed eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, leaving four civilians, 11 police officers and 36 insurgents dead.
The family finds itself torn between the Kabul of architectural sketches, in which a gleaming hotel rises skyward, and the reality of a city in the insurgency’s cross hairs.
One of the attackers reportedly told interrogators Monday that he was a member of the Haqqani network — a group whose assaults on the capital have undercut confidence in the city’s long-awaited revival.
Many Afghans have moved the bulk of their wealth overseas rather than gambling on a city that represents a tantalizing target for insurgents and that may have to contend with future assaults without the presence of Western combat troops.
Building a luxury hotel in Kabul had seemed defiantly optimistic, despite the rapid infusion of wealth since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 and the accompanying surge in conspicuous consumption, with mansions, shopping centers and elaborate wedding halls going up.
Hashim recognized that. He’d seen other projects fail, knew that sporadic attacks could jostle the sense of security here. But he and his brothers were sure they could make their investment work. They hired a Turkish architect, who drew a tall white building surrounded by an idyllic rendering of Kabul. They watched it rise, story by story.
But on Sunday afternoon, with the insurgent attack underway, the $7 million investment suddenly felt hubristic.
“I wish we’d never started this project,” said Hashim, one of 10 brothers who share ownership of the property. “The place we wanted to be beautiful and comfortable was used to kill people.”
Early Sunday afternoon, Hashim got a call from one of his workers, who said that a black Toyota Land Cruiser had broken through a gate around the building’s perimeter and that insurgents had taken over the concrete skeleton of the hotel.
“I told him to stay calm, not to try to escape,” he said. “Then I put down the phone and I panicked.”
Hashim, who is also a member of parliament, and his brothers started construction of the hotel in 2008, aiming to build a place that would attract Western diplomats and businessmen as NATO’s formal footprint in Afghanistan begins to shrink.