Suicide bombings in Afghanistan highlight difficult task ahead for US, NATO

The Taliban claimed responsibility for a twin suicide bombing today in Kandahar that killed at least 22 people. Officials say controlling suicide attacks in Afghanistan is near impossible.

A twin suicide bombing in Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city, left at least 22 people dead and as many as 50 injured on Wednesday in one of the deadliest bombings so far this summer. 

A motorcycle bomber detonated himself in an area where truckers gather several miles from the main international military base in the South. When people began responding to help the injured, another suicide bomber detonated himself causing more casualties. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which they described as aimed at a NATO convoy, and denied reports from Afghan police and government officials that only civilians were killed and wounded. The incident comes after the first part of this year saw lower levels of violence compared with the same period last year.

Even if security forces manage to keep violence trending downward, officials say that it is difficult to stop assassinations and suicide bombings like today’s as long as there are even a handful of motivated insurgents.

“Controlling the suicide attacks is really a hard job,” says Ahmad Javid Faisal, a spokesman for the Kandahar governor’s office. “The only two options are, first, to have really strong intelligence, even try to infiltrate the Taliban to get information about suicide bombers. Second, to raise awareness among families and not let the enemies use their children.”

As the Afghan war enters year 11, efforts to end the fighting through a negotiated settlement that would dissolve the insurgency have yet to make any significant progress.

In May, gunmen killed Maulvi Arsala Rahmani, a senior member of the Afghan High Peace Council tasked with negotiating with the Taliban. In September, a suicide bomber killed Burhanuddin Rabbani, the head of the High Peace Council. The Taliban denied responsibility for both of the killings, but has listed the assassination of peace council members as an operational priority.

“There will be many more suicide bombings this year, as well as attacks with remote-controlled mines and assassinations,” says Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Taliban. “We think Al Farooq [the spring offensive] will be very successful this year.”

Mr. Ahmadi added that the Taliban has tried to avoid civilian causalities during suicide attacks by scaring away civilians prior to an attack. He said that the first bomb in today’s attack was meant as a warning to clear civilians out of the area.

Despite such claims, the Taliban and insurgent bombings have caused large-scale civilian causalities. According to United Nations reporting, insurgents have been responsible for more than three-quarters of civilian casualties so far this year.

Bombings and high-profile assassinations have become popular insurgent techniques as they require minimal resources and usually gain significant media coverage. They also deal a psychological blow to the Afghan population.

“It’s a fair concern for Afghans that the Afghan security forces are not able to stop these kinds of attacks,” says Afghan Police Major Abdul Gafur, legal adviser to the police office in Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan. “For all the new weapons and training we get, the enemy is also changing their techniques and trying new options.”

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report

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