Taliban Bombings Rock Kabul

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A suicide bomber struck the Afghan capital today, killing two, injuring four, and highlighting once again the devastating decline in security that has wracked Kabul over the past year. Windows shattered under the force of the explosion across the tony district of Wazir Akbar Khan, home to several embassies and foreign aid agencies. The bomber, who rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into a convoy of armored land cruisers taking foreign forces through the neighborhood, appeared to be targeting U.S.-led coalition soldiers. His vehicle was completely incinerated; all that remained was a charred gasoline engine. Two of the three land cruisers were extensively damaged — testament to the force of the explosives. "I heard a huge sound, and the earth shook under my feet," says Elyas Muradi, a 22-year-old security guard who had been walking through the neighborhood to get breakfast. "Then there was complete silence." Debris from the explosion littered the street 50 meters away.

The bombing was the first such attack in the middle of the capital since a suicide bomber detonated himself on an army bus on Sept. 29, killing at least 35 Afghan National Army soldiers. But it came a day after a bomb planted on a little-used road on the fringes of the capital exploded, killing four. And on Saturday, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the town of Paghman, 15 miles outside Kabul, in an attack on Italian military engineers building a footbridge. One soldier and eight Afghans were killed in that attack, including three children. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for all three of the past four days' bombings.

Suicide attacks against foreign nationals and government security forces have increased dramatically in and around the capital over the past year, as part of the insurgent campaign to drive coalition troops out of Afghanistan. Across the country, militants have launched more than 130 suicide attacks in 2007, and more than 6,000 people have died this year in insurgency-related violence. While the coalition has made it clear that such tactics will not work, the increased attacks are sowing doubt in the minds of Afghans, who are disproportionately the victims of suicide bombings targeting foreign troops. "The situation has gotten worse," says security guard Abdul Saboor, who witnessed today's bombing. "These foreign forces came in the name of helping Afghans. Security is part of their mandate." But as the security situation deteriorates, Afghans are starting to lose faith. Six years after their ouster, the Taliban once again seem to be gaining a foothold, terrorizing the city they once controlled. "If the foreigners cannot do their job, then their existence is not appropriate any more," says Saboor. "They are not helping, so they should leave." For now, few in Kabul share Saboor's sentiments. But as deaths from suicide bombers mount, so will frustration, and coalition forces will face yet another challenge in trying to stabilize Afghanistan.