KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan’s army has stopped taking soldiers to and from work in the capital, deeming it too dangerous after a string of bomb attacks on buses carrying soldiers killed more than a dozen of them, an official said on Tuesday.
The decision was another sign of deteriorating security and heightened fear in Kabul two weeks before the U.S.-led combat mission ends after 13 years, and most foreign troops withdraw, leaving the fight against Taliban insurgents to Afghan forces.
Four buses carrying Afghan soldiers have been hit by suicide bombers in Kabul in the past two months, with the latest killing seven soldiers on Saturday. Six were killed in an attack two days earlier.
The Taliban are fighting to expel foreign forces and bring down the U.S.-backed government.
With soldiers increasingly a target, the Ministry of Defence canceled its long-time practice of shuttling soldiers to and from work.
“For now, it is stopped,” said ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri. He would not elaborate on what else might be done to get soldiers to work.
“Some measures have been taken to avoid further casualties after recent attacks and incidents. ... We cannot share them right now.”
On Monday, employees were seen streaming out of the Ministry of Defence on foot, leaving work early to find their own way home.
Among the options being discussed was having soldiers wear civilian clothes on their way to their posts and changing into uniforms there, according to one army officer.
The defense ministry is also discussing giving soldiers a monthly allowance of 3,000 afghanis ($51) to take buses or taxis, said the officer, who declined to be identified.
That the army is having trouble protecting soldiers highlights the bleak reality of the war, even as the international force draws down to about 12,500 troops and shifts to a support role.
Fighting is still fierce more than a dozen years after the Taliban government was toppled to punish it for sheltering al Qaeda leaders accused of masterminding the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on U.S. cities.
Deaths among Afghan security forces are set to reach a new high this year, with more than 4,600 police and soldiers killed as of November.
Civilian deaths, also, were near record levels, with more than 1,500 people killed in the first six months of 2014, 17 percent higher than the same period last year, according to the United Nations.
Nearly 3,500 foreign soldiers have died in the Afghan war, including about 2,200 Americans.
Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Robert Birsel