NEW DELHI: At the time of writing, news is emerging of a suicide bombing outside the governor’s house in Afghanistan's eastern Khost province that has killed at least 20 people. The attack took place as about 36 people gathered early Thursday morning to call for the ouster of the governor. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Afghanistan suspected Taliban gunmen have kidnapped nine Shia passengers in the northern province of Sar-e Pol.

"The ill-fated passengers were going from provincial capital, Sar-e Pol city, to [the province's] Balkhab district Wednesday morning when a group of armed people, presumably Taliban militants, intercepted their vehicles in Damarda area," Hayatullah Alamai, a member of Sar-e Pol provincial council told China's official Xinhua news agency.

The attacks come just over a week after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Washington, during which US President Barack Obama announced that the United States will maintain its current 9800 troops in Afghanistan through the end of 2015. "This damages all the prospects for peace, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said of the announcement. “This means the war will go on until they are defeated.”

The announcement that the US will leave 9800 troops in the country -- as opposed to an earlier plan of cutting the number to 5500 --and the following statement by the Taliban come as reports circulate of a possible dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani recently said "the grounds for peace have never been better in the last 36 years.” It is likely that the US’ announcement to slow down the removal of troops and the Taliban commitment to push through with the fighting will jeapordize the peace process in the deeply troubled country -- and violence will, in turn, see an upswing.

Thursday’s attacks thereby are by no means an aberration, as Afghanistan sees an upswing in violence. Last week, a powerful blast rocked central Kabul on Wednesday, killing at least six people and injuring 31.

Neither are kidnappings uncommon. On Sunday, just a few days before Thursday’s kidnapping, unknown gunmen kidnapped four people in the northern province of Balkh. In February, masked gunmen abducted 31 Shia Muslims who were traveling on two buses in Afghanistan’s central province of Zabul.

The violence shows no sign of letting up, with the UN Mission in Afghanistan concluding that 2014 was the worst year yet. In the year, the number of civilians killed or wounded in the troubled country climbed by 22 percent in 2014 to reach the highest level since 2009.

The UN agency documented 10,548 civilian casualties in 2014, the highest number of civilian deaths and injuries recorded in a single year since 2009. They include 3,699 civilian deaths, up 25 per cent from 2013 and 6,849 civilian injuries, up 21 per cent from 2013. Since 2009 -- when UNAMA began tracking casualties -- the armed conflict in Afghanistan has caused 47,745 civilian casualties with 17,774 Afghan civilians killed and 29,971 injured.

The UN says that Taliban militants -- who have been waging an insurgency in Afghanistan since a US-led invasion toppled their government 13 years ago -- were responsible for 72 per cent of all civilian casualties, with government forces and foreign troops responsible for 14 percent.

With the peace process looking set to fail before it even commenced, the Taliban vowing to push through with its insurgency as long as US troops remain, and the US and Afghan government making no move toward ensuring troop withdrawal -- the upswing in violence may lead to 2015 being far worse than the preceding year.