The suicide bomb blast that injured four U.S. troops Monday fueled worries about the spread of a deadly terror tactic that, until recently, had been little seen in Afghanistan.
A driver in a taxi stuffed with explosives rammed into a U.S. military vehicle about six miles west of the southern city of Kandahar, an unsettled area long a bastion of Taliban support.
The attack was at least the third suicide blast since May in a country that has largely been spared the kamikaze tactics used across Iraq against American soldiers and, increasingly, Iraqi civilians.
Until May, just five suicide blasts had hit Afghanistan in the more than three years since U.S. forces ousted the Taliban from power. Four of those had targeted NATO-led forces.
The latest hit “suggests that an alarming development may be under way: the importation of insurgent techniques from Iraq to Afghanistan,” Carl Robichaud, editor of Afghanistan Watch, wrote Monday.
A Taliban supporter claimed responsibility for the latest incident. Witnesses told reporters at the scene that the dead bomber appeared to be an Arab.
A U.N. engineer and an Afghan were killed May 7 when a suicide bomber struck an Internet cafe in the capital, Kabul. On June 1, a lone bomber blew himself up at the entrance to a Kandahar mosque where a funeral for a slain anti-Taliban critic was under way. At least 19 people were killed and 50 wounded in that attack.
Fighting in Paktika province, near the border with Pakistan, has killed five American troops recently, including two who died June 8 in a mortar attack on a firebase.
Largely out of the global limelight, Afghanistan has registered an uptick in violence in the past few months. Experts point to a stew of possible perpetrators: restive warlords, criminals, competing politicians, drug traffickers, as well as foreign Islamic terrorists.
U.S. and Afghan officials interpret the apparent trend as an effort to destabilize the country in advance of the September parliamentary elections.
Experts on Afghanistan say it is not yet clear if there is a concerted push by al Qaeda or Taliban terrorists to embrace suicide attacks in Afghanistan and use them against civilians as well as soldiers.
“It is perhaps surprising that suicide bombs have been so rare in Afghanistan, since the tactic would seem well suited to the Taliban’s relatively unskilled but highly motivated insurgents,” Robichaud wrote. “If Iraqi tactics are imported to Afghanistan it could ignite a bloody second front against an American army that is stretched perilously thin.”
(Contact Lisa Hoffman at hoffmanl(at)shns.com)