Taliban Terror Surge in Afghanistan: Two Americans Killed

By Patrick Goodenough | December 15, 2014 | 4:20am EST

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani addresses a press conference in Kabul. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)

(CNSNews.com) – With just two weeks to go until the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission ends, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani vowed Sunday that the country would “never surrender” to terrorists, after a surge of Taliban violence killed more than 20 people.

In a televised speech, Ghani urged religious and tribal leaders to speak out against the attacks, saying the attacks were neither “Islamic” nor humane.

Two American soldiers were killed in an IED blast in Parwan province, the first ISAF forces to be killed in December, taking the death toll of U.S. personnel in Afghanistan for the year to 55.

The Pentagon identified them as Sgt. 1st Class Ramon S. Morris, 37, of New York, New York; and Spc. Wyatt J. Martin, 22, of Mesa, Arizona.

In other attacks in recent days:

--12 de-mining personnel, working to remove explosives in southern Helmand province, were killed and another six were wounded in an attack

--The chief secretary of Afghanistan’s Supreme Court was shot dead by two armed motorcyclists in Kabul. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

--Six Afghan soldiers were killed and 11 others were injured when a suicide bomber targeted an army bus in Kabul. Again, the Taliban said it carried out the attack.

--Five Afghan personnel were killed in a Taliban ambush in the country’s north-west.

-- A German citizen was killed and 20 people, mostly Afghans, were injured in a suicide bombing during a theater performance at a high school in Kabul.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced earlier this month that the number of U.S. forces due to remain in Afghanistan after Dec. 31 would rise, from the 9,800 announced by President Obama last May, to 10,800.

He linked the decision not to an escalation in Taliban attacks, however, but to the slow pledges of troop numbers by allies to a post-ISAF training-and-support mission, named Resolute Support.

Obama’s withdrawal timetable provided for 9,800 – now 10,800 – troops at the start of 2015, around half that number a year later, with all troops out by the end of 2016, apart from a “security assistance component” attached to the U.S. Embassy.

Pointing to the new 10,800 number, a former head of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) agency, Gen. Hamid Gul, told a Pakistani newspaper at the weekend that if U.S. forces stay on, “peace would not come to Afghanistan.” Gul headed the controversial security agency in the late 1980s, and has long been suspected to have nurtured ongoing close ties with the Taliban.

As the ISAF mission has wound down, the Afghan National Security Forces has borne the brunt of the Taliban offensive.

ISAF Joint Command head U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson announced in early November that the number of ANSF fatalities as of that date had reached 4,634, a six percent rise from 2013.

More than 3,484 ISAF forces, including 2,356 Americans and 453 British personnel, have been killed since U.S.-led forces invaded to topple the Taliban regime after its al-Qaeda ally attacked America on 9/11.

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