Attack Kills 9 U.S. Soldiers In Afghanistan

Insurgents launched an elaborate attack on a remote U.S. base in Afghanistan today, killing nine American soldiers. New York Times reporter Carlotta Gall in Kabul, Afghanistan, talks to host Andrea Seabrook about one of the deadliest attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan in years.

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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Andrew Seabrook.

In Afghanistan today, insurgents launched an elaborate attack on a remote U.S. base. Nine American soldiers were killed. It's the deadliest attack on U.S. forces in Afghanistan in three years. It's also a sign that Afghanistan is eclipsing Iraq as the most dangerous place for American troops.

On the phone now with us from Kabul, Afghanistan, Carlotta Gall. She's covering the story for the New York Times. Welcome, Carlotta Gall.

Ms. CARLOTTA GALL (Reporter, New York Times): Thank you.

SEABROOK: So this wasn't just a one-time bombing. This was a full-blown assault?

Ms. GALL: Yes. It started at 4:30 in the morning, and it was still going on mid-afternoon. So it was a full assault, with mortars, with rocket-propelled grenades, and the casualties were on both sides. NATO says they've repulsed it, but they obviously took many casualties, nine American dead, 15 more wounded and four Afghan soldiers wounded. So a very serious, large-scale attack.

SEABROOK: I also understand that in a different part of the country today, a suicide bomber killed 15 Afghanis. It seems like the Taliban is gaining strength.

Ms. GALL: Well, a suicide bombing, of course, is disastrous, but it's necessarily a sign of their strength. It's just one man on a motorbike (unintelligible) up in a busy shopping bizarre, and he blew himself up, and of course the casualties were just immense. So we're hearing that possibly more than 15, maybe as many as 20, 25. In the chaos, it's not very clear, but it included children in the street, the baker and his two sons, as well as four or five policemen. So the carnage there is just relatively easy for the insurgence.

SEABROOK: Are the Taliban doing something different now?

Ms. GALL: I think they are. The NATO officials are saying that they have changed tactics to easier targets like suicide bombings, like attacks on convoys, on district centers because those are places that aren't always so well guarded, but they're also doing some very complex, large-scale attacks.

There have certainly been some attacks that have involved low hundreds of insurgents, I've been told, in this - particularly in the East, along the Afghan-Pakistan border, and that's a real increase from through the winter, where we saw groups of just 20, 25. Now, we're seeing, in some cases, some very large numbers.

As the NATO officials are saying, because if the increased instability in militants, in Pakistan, and they're coming across the border, so the attacks are growing in sophistication and complexity (unintelligible).

SEABROOK: One of your colleagues at the New York Times reported that the Bush administration may pull troops out of Iraq and put them in Afghanistan.

Ms. GALL: That depends, of course, on what happens in the coming months in Iraq, but there is a feeling that they need more forces here. General McNeil, the former American commander of NATO forces, frequently said he needed more, and General McKiernan, I think, is continuing that. He's the current commander of NATO forces here, that they still need, I think, thousands more to help really get a handle on the insurgency in Afghanistan.

SEABROOK: Carlotta Gall is a reporter with the New York Times. She spoke to us on the phone from Kabul, Afghanistan. Thanks very much.

Ms. GALL: Thank you.

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