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Taliban Bombing Kills at Least 20 at Kabul Police Station
A Taliban suicide bomber struck near a Kabul police complex on Monday, killing at least 20 police officers and wounding 29 people, Afghan officials said, in the latest of a rapid-fire series of militant attacks on the capital this year.
The attack came as the American military issued a grim confirmation of the war's toll on the Afghan security forces, saying that casualties among Afghan soldiers and police officers had risen by almost a third in 2015, compared with a record casualty rate in 2014 that some officials then considered unsustainable.
Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, said the attack on Monday happened near the gate of the National Civil Order Police. Witnesses said the bomber had walked up to a line of visitors waiting for a security check and detonated his explosives.
In a statement from a Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, the group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the bomber had targeted the complex as a large group of police officers was leaving.
Dozens of police officers cordoned off the sidewalk at the site of the bombing. But the main road, one of the busiest in Kabul, stayed open to traffic. Human remains were still visible even after firefighters hosed down the area.
"You see that tree? The branches are covered in flesh and blood," said Ahmad Parwiz, who sells fried dough across the street from the National Civil Order Police. "There were a lot of visitors queued up to go inside when the explosion happened. Thank God we weren't hurt on this side of the road."
Intense Taliban offensives this winter, including the string of bombings in Kabul, have Afghan and Western officials increasingly worried about the pressure on the Afghan security forces.
Col. Michael T. Lawhorn, a spokesman for NATO and United States forces in Afghanistan, said the casualties of Afghan forces through 2015 were 28 percent higher than in the previous year. Colonel Lawhorn, who would not go into details about the new casualty report, said a difficult year for Afghan forces had long been expected because they were carrying responsibility for a "significantly increased operational tempo" last year, after the end of the NATO combat mission.
An Afghan official briefed on the matter put the number of casualties last year at close to 16,000 soldiers and police officers, with more than 5,000 killed. Even those numbers seemed low, considering that 4,100 were killed in the first six months of 2015, and the fighting greatly intensified in the last six months of the year.
Gen. Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, declined to comment on the specific number of soldiers killed. He referred to the ministry's daily news releases, which often include reports of the day's casualties.
"All I can say is that compared to 2014, the casualties in 2015 were more," General Waziri said.
In the district of Deh Rawood in southern Oruzgan Province, where the police have long complained of a lack of equipment and ammunition while practically under siege, four security checkpoints were abandoned by the police and later burned down by the Taliban, according to Mohammad Karim Khadimzai, head of the Oruzgan provincial council. Around 30 police officers deserted their posts in Deh Rawood and arrived in Tirin Kot, the provincial capital.
"The reason for deserting their posts, the police said, is a lack of ammunition despite frequently asking headquarters for supplies," Mr. Khadimzai said.
But the provincial police chief has rejected that claim, saying the reason for the officers' desertion was that the post's commander had been fired recently over complaints from local residents that he had mistreated them. The provincial chief said the police officers who had deserted their posts were under investigation.
Dost Mohammad Nayab, a spokesman to the governor of Oruzgan Province, denied that the posts had been burned down by the Taliban, and said new forces had arrived to fill the vacuum.
The recent increase in urban attacks by the Taliban, in addition to a territory-gobbling offensive across the country, has coincided with international efforts to restart peace talks between the insurgents and the Afghan government. After a brief surge of progress last year, the effort stalled in July after it was revealed that the Taliban's leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, had died in 2013.
Officials from Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States are expected to meet for a third time soon to discuss a plan to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.
[Source: By Mujib Mashal, The New York Times, Kabul, 01Feb16]
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