In the latest incident in what has been a bloody week for Afghanistan, 11 soldiers were killed and 14 wounded when gunmen attacked an army outpost near a military academy outside of Kabul on Monday, according to an Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman.
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ISIS’s affiliate group in Afghanistan claimed responsibility for the attack, which police ended after killing four of the gunmen and capturing another.
It was the fourth major attack in Afghanistan in just over a week in a spate of violence that is bringing attention to U.S. strategy in the country, which has included a stepped-up military presence under President Donald Trump.
Just two days ago, on Jan. 27, a massive suicide car bomb killed 150 people in Kabul. On Jan. 24, six people died in an attack on the Save the Children office in Jalalabad. And, on Jan. 21, at least 22 people were killed after gunmen stormed the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul.
The Jalalabad attack, like the one today, was claimed by ISIS; the Taliban has said it was behind both the attacks in Kabul.
After a schedule of scaling back operations and withdrawing American soldiers under President Obama, Trump decided to sharply change U.S. policy in Afghanistan.
Both Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster were opposed to Obama’s policy of retreat from Afghanistan, and in April last year Trump sent a strong message with the use of the GBU-43/B, called the “mother of all bombs” on an ISIS cell in eastern Afghanistan.
Then, Trump announced a radical shift in U.S. policy in Afghanistan; withdrawal was to be contingent on ground conditions rather than on time.
Trump also said he would put increasing pressure on Pakistan, which lies on the eastern border with Afghanistan, by withholding more than $200 million in military aid, citing that country’s inability to confront regional terrorist networks on its soil.
The increase in U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan comes after a series of strategic victories for the Taliban, which had been gaining territory since 2015.
But a military pushback on Taliban positions across the country by the U.S. and its allies has pushed the militant group to attack urban areas to try to expose the Afghan government’s weakness and inability to protect civilians.
The Taliban has been fighting an insurgency based on its aims to re-establish an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan. ISIS’s attacks in the country, including a Christmas attack on a Shia Muslim shrine, point to that group’s more sectarian strategy there.
While the two groups are hostile rivals in Afghanistan, it is unclear if there is a reason that they are both launching attacks in a short period.