Will Kabul blast mean new Afghanistan surge?

At least 90 were killed and some 400 others injured in a huge car-bomb explosion in Kabul May 31, targeting the city's diplomatic district of Wazir Akbar Khan, near the presidential palace. Most of the victims were civilians on their way to work during the morning rush hour. There has been no claim of responsibility for the blast, but the Afghan intelligence service NDS said in a statement that the Haqqani Network is suspected. Afghanistan has charged that the Taliban-aligned Haqqani Network receives support from Pakistan's intelligence agency. Taliban mouthpiece Zabihullah Mujahid released a statement denying responsibility in the attack, but days earlier he had issued a statement as Ramadan opened, calling jihad "obligatory worship" and pledging no let-up in attacks.

Security in Afghanistan has steadily worsened since the official end of the NATO combat mission in 2014. US troops in Afghanistan now number some 8,400, down from a peak of 100,000—and are now in an officially advisory capacity. They are part of an international force numbering about 13,000.  Gen. John Nicholson, the US commander in Afghanistan, recently called for thousands more to help beat back the fast-rising Taliban insurgency.

Afghanistan's own security forces are overstretched amid mounting insurgency. Just over the past week, nearly 100 Afghan army and police personnel were killed by insurgents. (Stars & Stripes, BBC NewsLWJNYT, ABC, May 31; LWJ, May 30; VOA, May 28)

Kabul protest turns deadly

At least seven people were killed and 10 others wounded June 2 when a security forces fired on a protest at the site of a devastating suicide bombing in Kabul earlier in the week. The protestors, numbering over 1,000, decried the failure of President Ashraf Ghani to deal with increasing attacks in Kabul. (Pajhwok, NYT)

Trump gives Pentagon authority to set Afghanistan troop levels

President Trump has given the Pentagon new authority to decide the troop levels in Afghanistan, a US official said June 13. The move could lead to a deployment of thousands more troops. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly, said the move is similar to the April decision that gave the Pentagon more authority to set troop levels in Iraq and Syria. With the new authority, Defense Secretary