Afghanistan Sees Large Surge In Violent Attacks
ERIC WESTERVELT, HOST:
We begin this hour with news from Kabul. The city has seen a surge in violence. There have been at least a dozen different attacks this month alone. They're mostly targeting the international community. And today there was another, this time on a guesthouse that left two foreign workers dead. NPR's Sean Carberry joins me from Kabul. Sean, first, what can you tell us about today's attack?
SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: Well, it was about four o'clock in the afternoon local time when three militants stormed the compound. One blew himself up outside. One managed to get inside and trapped a number of foreign workers in the house. That triggered about a three or four hour standoff with police with frequent explosions and gunfire exchanges. The house caught fire.
Eventually, police were able to rescue about half a dozen people from the house and kill the last militant. But, again, there were fatalities. And we're still not sure who these people were. The Taliban said they were attacking a Christian missionary center, and there are conflicting records about what this guesthouse was. It does appear that there might have been children inside, which is rare, but sometimes does happen in the case of missionary organizations.
WESTERVELT: The U.S. and NATO, Sean, are winding down their combat operations in Afghanistan. How capable are the Afghan forces proving on their own?
CARBERRY: The U.S. and NATO say that they are able to out-fight the Taliban, which is true on a head-to-head level. But the Taliban have been very aggressive this year, and they've become increasingly aggressive in Kabul this month - again, many attacks, suicide bombings. The Taliban are actually fighting and trying to storm a former Marine base in southern Afghanistan right now. Afghan forces have lost about 10 or 11 soldiers fighting in that battle. So they still need a fair amount of help. And, in fact, the U.S. recently decided to extend some of the combat support to Afghan forces next year - air support and some possible ground support - recognizing the fact that Afghan forces can't secure this country completely on their own yet.
WESTERVELT: Traditionally, some would talk about the end of the fighting season at the end of November. Now, they're talking about an endless fighting season it seems, Sean.
CARBERRY: Certainly, in Kabul that seems to be the case right now. And people have often disputed the notion of the fighting season. It doesn't stop. It does tend to drop during the winter when it gets colder. But the Taliban have said they're going to continue to fight until all foreign troops are gone.
Now, that the Afghan Parliament has ratified the security agreement guaranteeing U.S. troops are going to stay, that's giving additional incentive to the Taliban. And for that matter, also, the drawdown with foreign troops - less and less out around the country and more in cities like Kabul. The expectations are that there will be more attacks here because this is where the foreigners are.
WESTERVELT: Sean, very briefly, are these attacks having a broader symbolic impact?
CARBERRY: Yes. I mean, certainly the international community people are rattled. Some organizations are starting to pull some people out and even Afghans themselves, who always try to put on a strong face and defy the Taliban, there's anxiety around the city right now with this level of violence.
WESTERVELT: NPR's Sean Carberry in Kabul. Sean, thank you.
CARBERRY: You're welcome, Eric.
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