Afghans Confront Surge in Violence
Monday, November 28, 2005
KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 27 -- An onslaught of grisly and sophisticated attacks since parliamentary elections in September has left Afghan and international officials concerned that Taliban guerrillas are obtaining support from abroad to carry out strikes that increasingly mimic insurgent tactics in Iraq.
The recent attacks -- including at least nine suicide bombings -- have shown unusual levels of coordination, technological knowledge and blood lust, according to officials. Although military forces and facilities have been the most common targets, religious leaders, judges, police officers and foreign reconstruction workers have also fallen prey to the violence.
The success of the September vote, which was relatively peaceful despite Taliban threats of sabotage, initially raised hopes that the insurgency was losing strength. But after two of the bloodiest months since U.S. forces entered Kabul in 2001, officials now say the Taliban might have been using that time to marshal foreign support and plot new ways to undermine the Western-backed government.
The attacks have been particularly noteworthy for their use of suicide bombers. Some have struck in waves, with one explosive-laden car following the next in an effort to maximize casualties. That sort of attack has been a hallmark of al Qaeda and a regular occurrence in Iraq. But in Afghanistan, suicide attacks of any kind have been relatively rare, despite a quarter-century of warfare.
Attackers have also shown a growing appetite for strikes in cities, particularly Kabul, setting residents' nerves on edge and leading them to take new security precautions at work, home and social events.
At a wedding Saturday, armed Afghan police officers meticulously searched guests before they were allowed to enter -- a practice unknown here until recent months. "Maybe somebody will bring a bomb and explode it at the wedding," said Nasrullah, a guest in his fifties who, like many Afghans, uses only one name. "It used to be that we could trust people. But right now, we cannot trust."
Col. Jim Yonts, spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, said the Taliban is resorting to suicide attacks and remote-controlled bombings in urban areas "out of desperation" as it continues to lose ground -- and men -- to international forces in the mountains and other rural areas. "They only lose one person in a suicide attack, not 10 or 15," as they would in battle, he said.
But Yonts acknowledged "grave concern" among U.S. officials over the idea that the Taliban might be taking a page from Iraqi insurgents' playbook by attacking with explosives in cities.
Afghan officials said the recent attacks demonstrate that the Taliban fighters are continuing to receive considerable outside assistance, such as advanced explosives and computerized timing devices that are being used to build more devastating bombs.
"There has been . . . more money and more weapons flowing into their hands in recent months," Defense Minister Rahim Wardak said in a recent interview with the Associated Press. "We see similarities between the type of attacks here and in Iraq."
In the past two weeks, Afghanistan has experienced near-daily attacks. Among the incidents: