Strike On Kunduz Clinic May Tip Afghan Public Opinion Against U.S.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
There have been a number of developments in international news we want to talk about now. A major story today is the bombing of the clinic run by the international medical aid group Doctors Without Borders in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz. The U.S. military has now confirmed that there was an airstrike in the area, and they are saying it may have caused, quote, "collateral damage," un-quote, to a nearby hospital. Doctors Without Borders says, according to the latest count, 19 people were killed. Twelve were its own volunteers or staff members, and seven were patients in the intensive care unit, also, nearly 40 people were injured. The organization is now asking for a full and transparent account of the attack from coalition forces. Here to tell us more is Abderrahim Foukara. He is the Washington, D.C. bureau chief at Al Jazeera Arabic.
Abderrahim, thanks so much for joining us.
ABDERRAHIM FOUKARA: Great to be with you again, Michel.
MARTIN: How significant do you think this airstrike will prove to be, particularly in the fight against the Taliban, which has been making inroads in this area?
FOUKARA: Well, it's obviously extremely bad news for the people who were killed or injured in it. It's very bad news for the Obama administration given, obviously, all the debate here in the U.S. about, you know, whether he made the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan too soon or not. But for civilians in Afghanistan, obviously the U.S. and the Afghan forces, they need the support of civilians to prevail. This does not help them in that effort.
MARTIN: Well, of course, this happened in the wake of the Taliban having retaken the city of Kunduz this week. It was the first time since the U.S. invasion in 2001 that the Taliban have retaken a city. Now, Afghan forces are saying that they have pushed the Taliban back out. That's a matter of some dispute. But, you know, overall, are you suggesting that then this kind of tips the balance of public opinion in a way - if I can put it that way?
FOUKARA: Well, public opinion, of course, is a very crucial element in this fight on both sides - on the side of the Taliban, but also on the side of the U.S., its allies and the Afghan forces. Regardless of who controls Kunduz now, the fact that the Taliban were able to actually be there for the first time in 14 years since they were toppled by the Bush administration is very significant. And, you know, whether they are still in control of Kunduz or whether they've actually been forced out, as the Afghan government is saying - the thing is, they were there, it was humiliating for the Afghan forces. So this is really bad news.
MARTIN: Let's talk a little bit more about the other big story of the week that we've all been following and you had an interview, in fact, with Secretary of State John Kerry just Friday. You raised this whole question about whether this raises the issue of whether the United States withdrew from Afghanistan too soon - that there's essentially a power vacuum in the region that basically allowed Russia to flex its muscles with these airstrikes. I know you talked to Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday about this. What's your perspective on this - what's his perspective on this?
FOUKARA: Well, first of all, I mean in terms of Afghanistan and Syria - I mean, it really is extraordinary that there seems to be a musical chairs in terms of who gets bogged down where. The Russians got bogged down in Afghanistan, they got out and then the Americans post 9/11. And the warning that we heard from John Kerry in that interview to the Russians is basically if you continue on this trajectory, then you will not only lead to greater destruction in Syria but you, yourselves, will get bogged down in Syria. You're not making this any easier for anyone - certainly not for yourselves and not for the Syrians, who are now fleeing Syria by the hundreds of thousands.
MARTIN: Abderrahim Foukara is the Washington, D.C. bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic, and he joined us from NPR's bureau in New York.
Abderrahim, thanks so much for speaking with us.
FOUKARA: Great to be with you, Michel.
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