Taliban suicide bombers attack two Afghan cities
The attacks are part of a spike in violence as US troops pour into the country ahead of elections next month.
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The attacks were launched on government buildings and came in th run-up to the presidential election in August. Violence has spiked in Afghanistan as the US has poured more troops into the country, launching a new offensive in the Taliban stronghold of southern Helmand Province as part of a new strategy to defeat the insurgency. (For a map of Afghanistan, click here.)
According to Al Jazeera, suicide bombers, some wearing women’s burqas, attacked the governor’s house, police headquarters, and intelligence headquarters in Gardez, the provincial capital of Paktia, on Tuesday. US and NATO forces were dispatched to quell gunbattles, Al Jazeera reported.
In a separate attack in Jalalabad, in the eastern province of Nangarhar, two suicide bombers on a motorcycle and one police officer died during a gunbattle, reports the Associated Press. According to the BBC, the militants killed in Jalalabad were trying to gain access to the airport, which is a base for Afghan and foreign troops.
Mr. Gates announced Monday that the Department of Defense was temporarily increasing the size of the US Army by 22,000 soldiers to reduce the strain on troops during the transition from military operations in Iraq to Afghanistan, reports The Christian Science Monitor. There are currently 58,000 US troops in Afghanistan.
As the US ramps down the mission in Iraq by 2011 and revs it up in Afghanistan, the Pentagon simply needs even more people. Over the next year, defense officials expect the number of soldiers deployed overseas to increase during the transition.
“This is an important and necessary step to ensure that we continue to properly support the needs of commanders in the field, while providing relief for our current force and their families,” Mr. Gates said at a Pentagon briefing Monday.