Taliban suicide bombers and gunmen unloaded a volley of violence across Afghanistan Saturday, killing two U.S. soldiers, assassinating a Supreme Court official, picking off 12 men working to clear land mines, and killing seven Afghan soldiers on a bus—continuing the pace of what has been a particularly bloody few months in the country.
The attacks began overnight when two American soldiers were killed as their convoy came under enemy attack near Bagram Airbase near Kabul. "Two International Security Assistance Force service members died as a result of an enemy forces attack in eastern Afghanistan on Dec. 12, 2014," a coalition press release said on Saturday.
In a more targeted killing early Saturday in Kabul's northwestern suburbs, gunmen assassinated Atiqullah Rawoofi, the head of the Supreme Court's secretariat, as he walked from his home to his car on his way to work. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the death, although they did not specify why they targeted Rawoofi.
Later, Taliban fighters killed at least 12 workers clearing mines for a contractor in southern Helmand province. At least another 12 were injured; 81 workers in total were at the site when they came under fire. The Taliban regularly targets demining workers as they attempt to remove mines throughout the country.
And late afternoon on Saturday in Kabul, a bomb tore apart a bus carrying Afghan soldiers, killing at least seven of them and injuring at least 10 more. "A suicide bomber on foot detonated his explosives at the door of a bus carrying army soldiers," said Hashmat Stanekzai, a spokesman for the Kabul police. Two days ago, at least six were killed in a similar fashion in Kabul.
The day of attacks comes at a moment when coalition forces and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) may be weakened by transition. The U.S. is supposed to be reducing its troops to 9,800 by year's end, but has had to adjust troop levels because European allies have had delays approving their troop deployments. The ANSF continues to struggle with its preparedness, despite assurances from the Pentagon and other officials to the contrary. And it was reported last month that President Obama had signed an order to expand the U.S. role in Afghanistan to target the Taliban more directly.
The Taliban, which seems to be aware of the vulnerabilities amid the confusion, claimed responsibility in Saturday's assaults and noted that their plan to expand their operations, saying their attacks would no longer be limited to military and government targets.
"Efforts have been made to identify those media outlets, civil society organizations and other related groups who are attempting to intensify vulgarity among the nation and broadcast programs that are against," said Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid. "The Taliban will continue its attacks targeting foreign invaders and their Afghan slaves."