Updated Apr 30, 2018

ISIS Kabul bombings target journalists, government ahead of elections

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.

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