Afghanistan Suicide Attack
Afghan National Army soldiers inspect the site of a suicide attack Reuters

A suicide car bomb was detonated by suspected Taliban insurgents outside a NATO contractor's office in the Herat province of Afghanistan.

The attack on the Monaco-based firm ES-KO, which provides services for Italian troops, occurred on Thursday near western Afghanistan's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters and was followed by a two hour-long gun-fight between militants and Afghan and NATO forces.

Thirty-one civilians were evacuated during the battle. At least four people were wounded in the attack, according to the New York Times.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen downplayed the bombing, noting that the rate of these attacks between July to September have dropped by 26 percent since the same period last year.

Spectacular attacks capture the headlines. But they don't capture more ground, Rasmussen said at a news conference.

They do not allow the enemies of Afghanistan to seize and hold ground. And the bigger picture is different. Overall enemy attacks are decreasing and the enemy has been weakened, he said.

Nonetheless, insurgent attacks are far from a rare event in Afghanistan. On Monday, a U.S. development office in Kandahar, killing five Afghans. On Saturday, the Taliban detonated a car bomb by a NATO convoy, killing 17 people, according to the AP.

Herat was one of the first places to begin transitioning to a fully domestic security force and was considered relatively peaceful. U.S.-led NATO forces are preparing a partial withdrawal out of Afghanistan by 2012, with American troops leaving completely two years later.

The plan is to hand over security to the ISAF. Despite the attacks, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi says he's confident that the country has the tools and personnel needed to protect the country after foreign troops exit.