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TALIBAN KILLS 7 AFTER U.S.-AFGHAN PACT

New York Times

KABUL, Afghanistan - Two suicide attacks targeting military transport vehicles here Wednesday killed seven Afghan soldiers and wounded nearly 20 others, officials said, one of the deadlier strikes on security forces in the capital since the summer fighting season began.

The attacks came a day after the government signed a crucial security deal with the United States that paves the way for a long-term U.S. troop presence, a pact the Taliban vehemently opposed. The group quickly issued a statement claiming responsibility for the assaults.

"By signing the agreement, the status of the Kabul administration, in particular the status of soldiers and police, is clear," the Taliban said in a statement. "They are working for the interests of others, and their killing is important."

The first attacker, wearing an explosive vest, boarded a full bus in the Karte Char neighborhood of Kabul. The blast killed seven soldiers and wounded 15 people, including civilians, said Hashmatullah Stanikzai, the spokesman for the police in Kabul.

The second attack also targeted a bus, this one in the Deh Sabz area, injuring four soldiers and no civilians, Stanikzai said.

Heavy violence has been the hallmark of the fighting season, with the army and the police sustaining heavy casualties from a withering Taliban assault. Afghan officials have said the past six monthswere the deadliest for police officers in the 13-year war in Afghanistan. Historically, police casualties have been double the level of those of the army.

The violence has challenged assumptions that Afghan forces can manage the fight against the Taliban on their own. While the signing of the security agreement with the United States sets the stage for continued training of the Afghan army, fewer U.S. forces will participate than before.

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