Suicide bombings that killed dozens in Afghanistan show the war is far from over: ANALYSIS

Dozens were killed as two suicide bombers detonated explosives Monday in Kabul.

April 30, 2018, 1:50 PM

Even by the standards of a country that has known little other than war for four decades, this has been a terrible day, bathed in blood.

The first attack came shortly before 8 in the morning, when a suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated his explosives near the headquarters of the Afghan intelligence services in Kabul, according to the interior ministry.

Rescue workers, police officers and journalists rushed to the scene to help the wounded and to report on the latest in a string of attacks across Afghanistan this year.

Security forces run from the site of a suicide attack after the second explosion in Kabul, April 30, 2018. A coordinated double suicide bombing hit central Kabul.
Massoud Hossaini/AP Images

Then, according to eye-witnesses, a second suicide bomber posing as a journalist entered the crowd and detonated another explosive device.

The numbers are likely to rise, but at least 25 people were killed, including nine journalists, according to the Associated Press.

Among the dead was famous Afghan photographer, Shah Marai, who worked for the French news agency AFP. He leaves behind six children, the youngest a baby girl who is just fifteen days old. He was said to be the sole money-earner not just for his immediate family, but also for his four siblings.

In a statement, AFP’s global news director, Michele Leridon said this was "a devastating blow."

Shah Marai, Agence-France-Presse's (AFP) chief photographer in Afghanistan, was killed in a secondary explosion following a suicide blast in Kabul, April 30, 2018.
File-Johannes Eisele/Handout via Reuters

Marai had worked for more than fifteen years documenting the war in Afghanistan that began with the US-led invasion in 2001. In the end, it cost him his life, along with nine other journalists -- including BBC reporter Ahmed Shah who was shot and also killed in the country today.

ISIS claimed it carried out the attack and described in detail deliberately targeting security personnel and the media who had rushed to the scene of the first blast.

Three hours later, there was another attack, this time on a convoy of Romanian troops travelling in Kandahar Province in the south of the country. Eight soldiers who were part of the US-led NATO train-and-assist mission Resolute Support were wounded when a car bomb attacked their convoy, according to AP.

The men are all hospitalized, in stable condition, according to a military spokesperson. Local media outlets are reporting that 11 children who were students at a nearby religious school were also killed in the attack.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with those wounded and with the innocent Afghans whose lives were needlessly taken from them," said Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of Resolute Support.

"In their spring offensive announcement, the Taliban claimed they would pay special attention to protecting the lives and properties of the Afghan people,” he said, referring to the annual surge of violence in the country as the weather warms.

"However, their hypocrisy was on full display today as they viciously killed Afghan citizens, including children who were Madrassa students," Nicholson added.

The war in Afghanistan is America’s longest. The men, women and children of this central Asian country have also paid, and continue to pay, a heavy price for a conflict that has no clear end in sight.

Local and foreign military leaders insist they are making progress. The government of Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani has said it is working hard to tackle rampant corruption and bring much-needed economic relief.

But the Taliban, and more recently ISIS, have proven to be dogged and often ruthless adversaries. Pakistan, and in particularly its intelligence service the ISI, are repeatedly accused of aiding and abetting the insurgents -- something Islamabad firmly denies.

When I was based in Afghanistan ten years ago, it was already a bloody battle with American and other foreign militaries paying heavily in blood and treasure. But 2018 feels quantitatively and qualitatively different.

The attack today was the tenth major incident in Kabul alone this year. It comes days after the Taliban began its spring offensive, in an apparent rejection of calls for the militants to engage in peace talks with the Afghan government.

ISIS, which has never had a stronghold in this region, is increasingly active and ruthlessly so. They are actively appealing for fighters who are on the back-foot in the Middle East to join them in Afghanistan.

"Make no mistake, the enemies of Afghanistan cannot win," Nicholson said.

Perhaps so, but the challenge for him, the troops he commands and, above all, for Afghan security forces and their government is to achieve something that has been elusive in 17 years of war in Afghanistan: Peace, victory or even both.

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