KABUL (Reuters) – Two suicide bombers dressed as policemen killed four police in a brazen attack on a training centre on Saturday, officials said, the second clash in Afghanistan’s volatile east within hours
Overnight, Afghan and NATO-led forces killed more than 15 insurgents after they came under fire when they approached a compound in Nangarhar province near the border with Pakistan.
Violence across Afghanistan is at its worst since the Taliban were ousted by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in late 2001. Military and civilian casualties are at record highs despite the presence of about 150,000 foreign troops.
Attacks flared in the lead-up to a summit of NATO leaders in Portugal, where U.S. and NATO officials agreed a week ago to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s timeline for foreign combat operations to finish by the end of 2014.
In the Paktia provincial capital of Sharan, Taliban insurgents dressed in police uniforms attacked the police chief’s headquarters and a training centre, a local official said.
Two of the attackers detonated explosives-packed vests they were wearing once they got inside the compound, killing four police. Several others including the police chief were wounded, said the official, who asked not to be identified.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the Islamist group. He told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location that the attackers had trained as police at the centre.
Afghan and U.S. and NATO commanders have set a goal of ramping up Afghanistan’s army and police to about 306,000 by October 2011 as part of the security transition plan from foreign to Afghan forces. There are currently about 258,000 Afghan soldiers and police.
One concern about such a rapid increase in Afghan forces has been whether officials will be able to vet recruits properly to prevent infiltration by insurgents. Attacks using uniforms bought or stolen by insurgents are relatively common.
The readiness of Afghan forces will play a major part in U.S. President Barack Obama’s deliberations when he begins a review of his Afghanistan war strategy next month. Some U.S. and NATO officials have warned that slow progress among Afghan forces might mean the 2014 timeline slips into 2015.
In Nangarhar’s Sherzad district, close to the Pakistan border, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said a patrol had come under small-arms and machinegun fire as it approached a compound in search of a Taliban leader.
It said “more than 15 armed insurgents” were killed in the subsequent engagement overnight.
On November 13, Taliban fighters including at least two suicide bombers attacked a foreign military base in Jalalabad, Nangarhar’s capital and the main city in Afghanistan’s east.