Taliban attacks on Tuesday night and Wednesday killed eight US soldiers within a 24-hour period, highlighting the intensifying insurgency waged by the Taliban, which this year is carrying out more attacks than ever in the nearly nine-year-long war.
On Wednesday, a roadside bomb killed four US troops in the south, reports the Associated Press. A fifth soldier died the same day of wounds from a gun battle.
On Tuesday night, a Taliban attack on the headquarters of a police unit in the Afghan city of Kandahar killed nine people, including three US soldiers. It came hours after an Afghan soldier killed three British troops in neighboring Helmand Province, and days after six additional US troops were killed in Taliban attacks Saturday.
Tuesday’s attack on the police post began when a suicide bomber exploded his car at the entrance to the elite Afghan National Civil Order Police, reports AP. Fighters then began firing rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, but the Afghan police, along with NATO troops, kept the insurgents from entering the compound.
AP reports that along with three American soldiers, five civilian Afghan employees and one Afghan policeman were killed. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
The New York Times highlights a recurring strategy in Taliban attacks:
The assault resembled two recent attacks on American bases at Bagram and Jalalabad in which suicide car bombers detonated their explosives, allowing small groups of insurgents to launch follow-up attacks using grenades and other weapons.
Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan, is a Taliban stronghold. NATO forces had announced plans to wage an offensive to push the Taliban out of Kandahar Province this summer, but scaled back that language after the massive offensive in Marjah in neighboring Helmand Province in February and March, which attempted to retake the region from the Taliban and reestablish government control and services there.
Military officials said they would not launch a similar massive military operation in Kandahar as planned but would focus, at least for the summer, on improving security and local governance, reported McClatchy Newspapers.
AP reports that Tuesday’s attack in Kandahar took place near one of the 11 new checkpoints set up recently under that plan:
The new checkpoints are manned by the elite Afghan unit along with international forces in a push to increase security in the south’s largest city, where Taliban operatives have long operated.
At the same time, thousands of NATO and Afghan troops are fanning out elsewhere in Kandahar province to pressure insurgents in rural areas. The strategy is to secure the population with the additional trained police and troops so that capable governance and development projects designed to build capacity can win the loyalty of the city’s half-million residents.
But their efforts may not be panning out: The Christian Science Monitor recently reported that Kandahar residents are increasingly turning to the Taliban to resolve their disputes because the government justice system is plagued by corruption.
And it comes as the Taliban have increased attacks to their highest level since the war began in 2001, according to a report released this week by Afghanistan Rights Monitor. Reuters reports that the rights group said that, on average, 14 civilians are killed or wounded each day, with at least 1,074 killed already this year and 1,500 injured. The group also said 61 percent of those deaths came at the hands of insurgents.
June was the deadliest month yet for coalition forces in Afghanistan, with 103 dead. A NATO official denied Sunday that the Taliban was gaining the upper hand with its deadly attacks.