A suicide bomber, reportedly wearing an Afghan Army Uniform, detonated explosives outside a military base near Jalalabad in Eastern Afghanistan. Officials say at least five NATO service members and four Afghan soldiers were killed and another eight people , including four translators, were wounded in the attack.
The attack coincides with a number of efforts on the diplomatic front to bring a close to the nearly 10 year old conflict.
In what is one of the worst attacks on NATO forces in months a man reportedly wearing an Afghan uniform infiltrated security at the base outside Jalalabad in the early morning hours Saturday.
The attack comes just a day after another bomber claimed the life of the Police Chief of Kandahar in Southern Afghanistan.
Afghan Defense Ministry authorities say they are looking into whether or not the bomber was just wearing a uniform or if he had actually been in the military. A Taliban spokesman claims the bomber was a sleeper agent who had been in the army for over a month.
Infiltration into the Afghan military has long been a major concern for authorities in the war zone. Vetting of applicants remains a major priority.
Another concern is that uniforms are readily available in markets throughout Afghanistan allowing for a quick disguise for terrorists or Taliban.
Traditionally fighting escalates in Afghanistan as the weather turns warmer. The end of April or beginning of May is often referred to as the beginning of the ‘fighting season’.
But these attacks come also at a time when diplomatic efforts are mounting.; in an effort to capitalize on NATO and Afghan gains in the last year.
For Dr. Mohammed Omar Sharifi of the American Institute for Afghan Studies, it is no coincidence that the attacks come at the same time as Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani traveled to Kabul.
"It's not the first time actually happening when there is a diplomatic efforts there is always a show of force by the Taliban or their supporters, normally mean both attacks, in a sense, the terrorists and the Taliban are trying to show they are capable of mounting devastating attacks," he said.
Prime Minister Gilani’s trip to Kabul included meetings with Hamid Karzai and Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak.
Following those meetings Prime Minister Gilani said all parties, including the U.S. and Afghanistan, were of the same mind that there should be some sort of reconciliation with certain elements of the insurgency in order to bring about peace.
With Pakistan and Afghanistan sharing a porous border, the ongoing war effort is also affecting Islamabad’s authority. And Prime Minister Gilani quickly noted that in many ways the fight is a shared one.
"If there is a military action in our area then people go to Afghanistan, and if there is a military action from the NATO forces they come to Pakistan. Therefore we should have more intelligence cooperation and defense cooperation and political cooperation because we are both suffering, we are brothers, we are neighbors, and we should not suffer more," he said.
With the increase in violence and fighting expected in the coming weeks and months however authorities say it will take a concerted effort on all parties, Afghan, Pakistani and NATO to continue to put pressure on the Taliban to bring them to the table.
And, many say, for their part the Taliban will need to show that they are still capable of launching significant attacks so that they can come to the table from a position of strength as well.
And that may be why things appear to have escalated in recent days.