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Mourners at the burial site of AFP Afghanistan Chief Photographer Shah Marai Faizi, who died in Monday's bombings. Photo: Andrew Quilty/AFP via Getty Images

Two suicide bombings in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, on Monday morning killed at least 25 people, including journalists, police officers and emergency responders. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

Why it matters: Over the past year, Kabul has faced a surge of large-scale attacks, and Afghanistan’s National Unity Government has struggled to improve security throughout the country. Although President Ashraf Ghani has offered to enter peace negotiations with the Taliban, these bombings underscore that the Islamic State poses its own grave challenge to the country's stability, just as President Trump has reportedly called U.S. support into question.

Monday's attacks appear to have been designed to specifically target journalists and emergency personnel. At least nine journalists are confirmed dead, as well as at least four police officers. The blow to Afghan journalism is noteworthy, as the burgeoning independent media is now the country's second-most trusted institution (behind only religious leaders).

The attacks come before two milestones in Afghanistan’s democratic development: parliamentary elections, slated for October, and next spring's presidential election. They also follow another Islamic State–claimed attack last week at a voter registration center that killed at least 60 — an apparent effort to discredit the electoral process and sow ethnic violence.

What to watch: First, whether Afghanistan's deteriorating security will have a further chilling effect on the upcoming elections. Second, whether Trump’s new national security team will shift positions on Afghanistan. U.S. leadership has emphasized enduring American support for the Afghan government consistent with the administration’s new South Asia Strategy, but reports broke on Monday that Trump wants to “get the hell out of ” Afghanistan. The only certainty is that Afghan journalists will continue to risk their lives to report the news.

Frances Z. Brown is a fellow with the Carnegie Endowment’s Democracy and Rule of Law Program and a former director for democracy at the National Security Council.

Go deeper

23 mins ago - Health

Treasury begins dispersing $350 billion in COVID relief funding to states and localities

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Treasury on Monday began giving state and local governments access to $350 billion in emergency funding from the American Rescue Plan, the department announced Monday.

Why it matters: Though the money is aimed at helping state, local, territorial and tribal governments recover from the pandemic's economic fallout, the administration will generally give them wide latitude on how they can use the funds.

Game developers break silence around salaries

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Developers are sharing their salaries on Twitter under the hashtag #GameDevPaidMe to encourage pay transparency in their industry.

The big picture: The hashtag started circulating last year, but has returned periodically as developers fight for better working conditions. Salary sharing is a way to equalize the field. By removing the secrecy, as well as the stigma, around discussing pay, workers have more power to advocate for themselves when negotiating salaries and raises.

51 mins ago - World

Jerusalem crisis: Hamas fires rockets, Israel begins military campaign

Palestinian protesters and an Israeli police officer near the Damascus Gate. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Days of tensions in Jerusalem escalated into an exchange of fire on Monday, as Hamas fired dozens of rockets toward Israel and the Israeli military responded with strikes of its own and said it was preparing for a military operation that could last several days.

Why it matters: This is the first time Hamas has fired rockets at Jerusalem since 2014, and the most serious escalation between the Israelis and Palestinians in many months. It comes during the most sensitive days on the calendar — the last days of Ramadan and the Jerusalem Day commemoration on Monday — and amid political crises in both countries.

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