KABUL, AFGHANISTAN, AND ISTANBUL, TURKEY — In an attack that underscored the vulnerability of Afghanistan's struggling security forces, a suicide bomber dressed in a police uniform slipped into a police compound and detonated a powerful explosive device Monday, killing at least 21 officers, authorities said.
The attack in southern Afghanistan also wounded a dozen police officers, according to the Interior Ministry.
Over the last two years, Taliban insurgents have increasingly focused their attacks on Afghan security forces rather than the much better trained, better armed and better protected Western troops, who number more than 60,000.
The police are considered a far "softer" target than Afghan soldiers, who are often in the company of NATO or U.S. forces and have been taking the lead in more and more combat missions. Many police outposts are only lightly defended, with relatively lax security. Nearly 1,000 police officers were killed last year in insurgent attacks.
A key component of Western strategy in Afghanistan is to hand over greater responsibility to the Afghan police and army, because locally recruited forces have a much better rapport with the populace. American troops carry out much of the training.