Afghans tighten security in Kabul after attack

An Afghan police officer points to a driver during searches at a checkpoint in Kabul on Tuesday, a day after a brazen assault.

Associated Press

An Afghan police officer points to a driver during searches at a checkpoint in Kabul on Tuesday, a day after a brazen assault.

KABUL — Two U.S. service members were killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan Tuesday, a day after a brazen Taliban attack on the capital.

The southern Taliban heartland has seen intense fighting and is expected to be the destination for most of the 30,000 U.S. reinforcements being sent by President Barack Obama. A NATO statement gave no other details about the latest U.S. deaths.

Afghan forces increased the number of checkpoints and patrols in the capital Tuesday amid public anger over security lapses that enabled a small group of militants to mount a series of suicide explosions and gunbattles the day before.

President Hamid Karzai ordered a review of security measures in the capital but said Afghan troops should be praised for their performance in preventing an even bigger disaster as the nonmilitant death toll stood at five — three security forces and two civilians, including a child.

Troops searched vehicles entering the capital as well as on the main streets in the city center, verifying documents and pulling suspicious cars aside with an increased number of checkpoints, foot patrols and vehicle patrols.

Analysts said the attack didn't reflect a stronger Taliban but did expose deficiencies in the security apparatus.

"The Taliban have only one possibility and that is to blow themselves up. But unfortunately the Taliban can infiltrate Kabul or other major cities for terrorist attacks because of the weak state of the police," said Taj Mohammad Wardak, a former interior minister. He said police need more training and higher salaries, adding Monday's casualty toll could have been worse if the Afghan army hadn't stepped in to help.

In Atlanta, Gen. David Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, said the attacks showed "the resilience and indeed a degree of sophistication" among the militants "in carrying out simultaneous attacks" against major government targets.

On Monday, seven attackers either blew themselves up with suicide vests or died in gunbattles. The civilian casualty toll, meanwhile, was relatively low. Most of the 71 wounded suffered light injuries, according to hospital officials. It was the biggest assault on the capital since Oct. 28, when three gunmen stormed a guesthouse used by U.N. staff, killing at least 11, including five U.N. workers.

$2.5 billion in bribes in Year

Half of all Afghan adults paid at least one bribe to a public official over the course of a year to cut through red tape or get help with poor service, the United Nations said Tuesday in a report on the extraordinary depth of corruption in Afghanistan. Afghans paid nearly $2.5 billion in bribes — worth almost a quarter of the country's GDP — in the 12-month period ending last autumn. The average bribe cost $160 — a hefty sum in a country with a per capita income of nearly $500, according to the report, based on interviews with thousands of people across Afghanistan.

Afghans tighten security in Kabul after attack 01/19/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 11:13pm]

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