A suicide car bomb detonated in Kabul, Afghanistan, this morning, killing at least 12 people and injuring another 84. The bombing, which was felt more than a mile away, was a stark reminder of the constant danger coalition troops face as they take on the difficult dual tasks of fighting a war while helping to rebuild the country.
Many troops in Afghanistan are dedicated to routing out and stopping insurgents, but specialized units throughout the country are charged with a more delicate task -- to rebuild critical physical infrastructure and restore civil society.
Special teams of soldiers known as Provincial Reconstruction Teams are working with local leaders to make life better for locals. Many people hope that Afghans will turn away from the Taliban if coalition forces help improve their lives.
Troops are rebuilding roads and bridges and creating parks, and plans are in the works for a health clinic and a women's center.
But reconstruction hasn't been easy, given the dangers inherent in every mission the soldiers and Afghan police undertake.
While troops are going out to try to rebuild the country, insurgents are determined to stop the soldiers at all costs.
Eight American soldiers were killed in a deadly firefight last week, and the death toll in the country continues to rise.
On a recent early-morning mission in Kandahar City, troops on foot patrol and in armored vehicles spotted waving flags.
Shortly afterward, pigeons were released into the air, apparently a signal "for the person that's farthest … signaling to them to move, that coalition forces are coming in," one soldier explained.
Later in the day, gunfire erupted, and those in the patrol had to run for cover.
A short while afterward, the patrol arrested suspected drug dealers who were believed to be supplying money to the Taliban.
Even though the Taliban were initially beaten back-- with a presence limited to about half the country in 2007 -- the insurgents today occupy about 80 percent of Afghanistan.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, has requested as many as 40,000 new troops, a request that's become the focal point of White House policy debates.
A surge of 21,000 U.S. troops earlier this year, bringing the U.S. deployment to 65,000, has failed to blunt the Taliban offensive.
The Kabul bombing comes less than a week after eight U.S. soldiers were killed in a massive, coordinated ambush at a U.S. base 10 miles from the Pakistan border.
ABC News' Lee Ferran contributed to this report.