NEW DELHI: Seven policemen were killed in Afghanistan’s Jawzjan province, as gunmen attacked a police checkpoint. A few hours apart, seven civilians were killed when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in eastern Kunar province. On the same day, an Afghan journalist -- Zubair Hatami -- died of injuries sustained during a Taliban attack on a French-run school. Meanwhile, the United States announced a change in strategy. “Being a member of the Taliban doesn’t mean that the United States is going to prosecute operations against you for that reason alone,” Pentagon spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby told a news briefing in Washington.

The spokesperson drew a distinction between combatant and non-combatant Taliban, saying that those who continued to fight -- thereby posing a threat -- would not be spared. “We’ve also concurred that a member of the Taliban who undertakes missions against us or our Afghan partners — by that act alone, renders himself vulnerable and liable to US action,” Admiral Kirby said. “What changes fundamentally, though, is (that) … on January 2nd, just by being a member of the Taliban doesn’t make you an automatic target,” Admiral Kirby said, referring to the role of the 10,800 troops that will remain in Afghanistan after 2014 under the provisions of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA).

Although outgoing US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel had said, whilst announcing that an addition 1000 troops will remain in Afghanistan, that “the president's authorization will not change our troops' missions, or the long-term timeline for our drawdown," there has been a change in the mission of the troops. It was previously believed that the remaining troops would be limited to training the Afghan military and in counterterrorism measures against the Taliban. However, last month it was revealed that Obama had approved broader guidelines to allow the military to target Taliban fighters. Admiral Kirby’s statements refer to this broader role.

These statements come as violence in Afghanistan surges, with the Taliban having stepped up activity. Security forces -- Afghan and foreign -- are the subject of attack.

Recent attacks include a suicide attack in Kabul that killed one person, an attack on a bank in southern Afghanistan that killed 10, and within a span of a day -- attacks that killed two US soldiers, assassinated a Supreme Court Official, picked off 12 men working to clear landmines, and killed seven Afghan soldiers on a bus, last Saturday.

A few days before that, gunmen hit a French cultural centre inside a high school and a bus carrying Afghan army personnel killing six soldiers on the outskirts of Kabul. A little over a week before that, a suicide bomber detonated his payload at a crowded funeral, killing two police and seven civilians. A few days before that, Taliban gunmen killed three members of a South African family in an attack on a foreign guesthouse in Kabul-- the third such attack on a foreign guesthouse within a span of 10 days.

Before that, just hours after gunmen attacked a British convoy that killed six people and injured 35 others in the capital city, a suicide bomber breached the defenses of a guest house belonging to the International Relief & Development (IRD) organization.

In the same week, a dozen plus Taliban insurgents stormed Camp Bastion. At least five soldiers were killed. Adding to the bloodshed, in another part of Helmand -- in Sangin district -- at least 12 soldiers were killed after their smaller outpost was attacked by gunmen.

A few days before that, a roadside bomb exploded in Kabul injuring seven Afghan National Army personnel. On the same day, a bombing on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, which officials blamed on the Haqqani network, killed sixty-one and injured fifty others.

In a brutal attack on Nov 24, a suicide bomber detonated his vest packed with explosives at amid a crowd of people who had gathered to watch a volleyball match, killing 45 in the attack in Afghanistan’s Paktika province.

The attack coincided with an agreement reached in Afghanistan’s parliament, on the same day, that allowed for US and NATO troops to remain in the country post 2014.

The week before, two days after Taliban fighters killed two security guards on the eastern outskirts of Kabul, officials say that they killed four Taliban suicide bombers during an attack on a compound housing foreign workers in the capital city.

A few weeks before, a convoy of vehicles belonging to American-led coalition forces was attacked twice by Taliban gunmen. Although the convoy suffered no casualties, an Afghan civilian died in the attack. A few days before that in the same week, two separate bombings killed at least ten police officers, including a top commander. The bombings, in turn, followed an attack on the police headquarters in Kabul a day earlier that killed a senior police officer and injured six others. The explosion reportedly happened two hours after another explosion in Kabul, with news reports from the region quoting Defence Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Zahair Azimi saying that the earlier attack was on an Afghan army vehicle that resulted in no casualties.

Earlier, in October, six police officers and two civilians were killed in two separate attacks on the same day, a day after members of the Taliban ambushed a police convoy, leading to an hours-long gun battle in northern Afghanistan. Before that, in the same month, Taliban insurgents killed 22 security force members in Sar-e-Pol province north of Kabul, which in turn, followed a bomb in Kabul on the same day that killed one civilian.

A few weeks ago, although not claimed by the Taliban, a prominent female politician -- Shukria Barakzai -- narrowly escaped a suicide attack that killed three others.

Other recent attacks -- leading up to and during the Presidential elections -- include an attack that killed three soldiers belonging to the United States-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in September, a suicide bombing that killed Karzai’s cousin Hashmat Khalil Karzai, the shooting of 15 civilians, two Finnish relief workers, an attack on the Kabul airport, and one of the deadliest attacks since 2001 wherein a sports utility vehicle detonated in a busy market in Paktika province, eastern Afghanistan, that killed 90 people.