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Afghan violence snares civilians

More than 90 people have been killed in the past 10 days, as guerrillas hit softer targets.

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High up in the Sultan Sahib mountains west of Kabul, there is a mystery brewing worthy of an Afghan Agatha Christie. The police chief for this district was murdered Monday, along with eight of his most senior officers, and nobody can agree on who did it.

Local people say it could be thieves or nomads or people who had a personal feud with the police chief, Abdul Khaliq. Officials in Kabul and the local governor say it was definitely the Taliban. But about the only thing that everyone agrees on is that the security situation in this area has gotten worse, leaving villages to defend themselves.

"There is no security," says villager Hakeem. "If the government people come under attack, where is the security for us? It is possible tomorrow they can come to my house and attack me."

The apparent ambush on police here in Logar province is just one of a spate of attacks that have left more than 90 people - the vast majority of them Afghan civilians - dead in the past 10 days alone. From the bombing of a minibus full of women and children in Helmand Province to the nighttime assault on a border security post in Khost, these recent attacks are part of what US and Afghan officials say is a pattern of shifting attacks away from well-armed US bases and toward more vulnerable civilians, aid workers, and local officials.

Whatever the origin of these attacks, the effect is being felt across Afghanistan, as foreign aid organizations pull out foreign staffers, and Afghans lose hope that the international community will ever rebuild their country.

US military officials say that they are primarily focused on hunting Al Qaeda. While the US does come to the aid of the Afghan national forces, commanders say they simply do not have the manpower to protect every village.

The United Nations, meanwhile, has been calling for a larger international military and security force in Afghanistan, one that could provide security outside Kabul. But as yet, member nations have not agreed to that, and observers do not see it as imminent.

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