U.S. and Afghan soldiers avoid the dust-filled rotor wash of a medevac helicopter transporting Afghan security personnel wounded in an ongoing firefight with the Taliban in Kandahar province.
Among the aims of the U.S. and other members of NATO forces in Afghanistan is to win the hearts and minds of Afghans with development projects that provide employment.
Meanwhile, the Taliban's goal is to punish Afghans who work towards those Western goals and to make the country ungovernable, at least by the existing government.
Thus, anyone who hopes to see the U.S. make progress in Afghanistan could only see reports like those coming from that nation's southern region Friday as discouraging.
KABUL, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Taliban insurgents killed up to 30 Afghans working for a road-building company in the volatile south of the country, officials said on Friday.
Violence has surged across Afghanistan despite the presenceof almost 150,000 foreign troops, with military and civilian death tolls reaching record levels.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said three of its service members had been killed in two roadside bomb attacks in the south on Thursday and Friday.
There was no immediate explanation for the attack late on Thursday in the Sangin district of Helmand province in which the road crew workers and security guards were killed, although construction crews are frequently targeted.
"A group of Taliban attacked the site with machine guns and rockets, killing 25 of my workers," said an official from the Afghan Construction company who identified himself as Aqa Jan.
Mohammad Mamaluddin, the Helmand deputy police chief, said later the death toll had risen to 30 and that another 17 were wounded.
He said the attackers had also set fire to machinery and taken about 12 four-wheel drive vehicles.
Separately, a report by NPR's Quil Lawrence for Morning Edition underscored the limits of President Hamid Karzai's power, or that of the international forces, to exert control over areas even a short distance outside Kabul.
It’s hard to avoid the feeling of a tightening ring around the Afghan capital, when the neighboring provinces of Logar and Wardak have become no-go areas. American officials considered the capital of Logar, about 35 miles southeast of Kabul, to be safe and friendly until just two years ago - that’s when a Taliban ambush killed four employees of a US based charity organization as they drove the main highway back to Kabul. A year later, August 2009, the Taliban took over a five story building in Logar’s capital and held it for several hours of gun-fighting with the Afghan army and police.
Muhammad Agha is the district of Logar closest to Kabul, maybe 20 miles away. Shop keepers here ushered a visitor into a small auto parts store and out of sight from the road.
Small villages with trees full of chirping birds hug the main road through Logar, but it would be unwise to venture out they say - the Taliban are watching.
(An Afghan man speaks in Dari which is translated.)
TRANSLATION: During the day they dress like civilian. But during the night they’re Taliban.