A Taliban statement said the assailants were targeting the presidential palace, the Afghan defense ministry and a CIA outpost.
Gen. Abdul Zaher Cid of the Kabul police, citing security forces who witnessed the attack, said the insurgents wore uniforms that resembled those of the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force and the two armored vehicles bore ISAF emblems.
One of the vehicles was able to get past a security barrier using fake documents, while the second was stopped, deputy police chief Mohammed Daud Amin said, quoting security officials present at the scene.
“All of the attackers were killed, without success in achieving their goals,” U.S. Ambassador James B. Cunningham said in a statement. “This again demonstrates the futility of the Taliban’s efforts to use violence and terror to achieve their aims.”
The palace is part of a sprawling, high-security compound, near the U.S. Embassy. The attack was the most brazen in Kabul by the Taliban since their resurgence in recent years and comes a week after the Taliban opened an office in Qatar to pursue talks with the United States on a political solution to the conflict.
James Dobbins, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is currently in Kabul for meetings with Afghan officials about the peace talks.
“We again call on the Taliban to come to the table to talk to the Afghanistan government about peace and reconciliation,” Cunningham said.
The Taliban said the attack was part of its spring offensive and was facilitated with “inside help and through special tactic.” The eight militants were armed with rockets and hand grenades, the Taliban statement said. The attackers included suicide bombers who were targeting a suspected CIA compound.
The Taliban used a similar uniform disguise tactic in the attack last September on Camp Bastion in Helmand Province in which a half-dozen U.S. Marine fighter jets were destroyed.
On Tuesday, the clashes that followed the initial attack lasted nearly an hour and a half, Amin said.