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Is the U.S. Failing to Secure Afghanistan? Militants Attack Afghan Ministry With Bomb, Grenades and Gunfire

Gunmen stormed the headquarters of Afghanistan’s interior ministry on Wednesday, leading to hours of armed conflict inside the heavily fortified compound.

Around ten militants set off a car bomb outside of the ministry building, before storming the compound armed with assault rifles and grenade launchers. The Islamic State terrorist group later claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news agency. However, the group has been known to claim attacks that it was not responsible for.

Afghan officials later announced that all ten militants had been killed in the fighting. At least one Afghan policeman was killed and around five others wounded. The militants ultimately failed to enter the ministry’s main buildings because they are located far from the compound’s entrance, officials said.

Still, the attack comes as the security situation in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul continues to deteriorate due to the joint threat from the Taliban and the Islamic State. Some experts argue that the attack is another sign that the Trump administration should rethink its strategy for Afghanistan. 

"The attack on the interior ministry is just the latest in a long string of brazen and high profile attacks in Kabul this year. This winter the Taliban carried out an ambulance bombing that killed over 100, while the Islamic State killed over ten soldiers in an attack on an Afghan army base," Chris Meserole, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, told Newsweek. 

"Afghan security forces have long struggled with how to defeat the Taliban alone. Now that the Taliban are competing with the Islamic State for resources and recruits, the challenge has grown even more daunting—the two groups are now locked in a race to see who can launch bigger and more devastating attacks," Meserole continues. 

"The Trump administration will need to decide how best to respond. The White House has already loosened the rules of engagement and ramped up its counterterrorism efforts—will it double down on that strategy now, or focus more on diplomacy instead?" 

The overall security situation has deteriorated in Afghanistan over the past several years as the Taliban takes control over larger areas. Researchers have noted that the security situation has worsened considerably in the capital as the Taliban regains influence. 

“Fighting between Afghan government and Taliban forces intensified through 2017, causing high numbers of civilian casualties,” Human Rights Watch noted in a report released in January. “In the past two years, the Taliban have intensified their attacks in large urban areas, ostensibly targeting Afghan government and foreign military facilities but using means that cause massive, indiscriminate casualties.”

Meanwhile, reports suggest that fewer people are signing up to join the Afghan security forces. The country’s security personnel has dropped by around 10 percent in just one year, despite the U.S. has pouring billions of dollars into its training. 

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