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Suicide Attack at NATO Base in Jalalabad Kills 9 Afghans

February 27, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Coalition forces came under attack in Afghanistan again today. No foreign troops were killed, but nine Afghans died. It was part of a new spasm of anti-American violence.

Mangled automobiles were all that remained after a suicide car bomber rammed the gates of a NATO base and airport in Jalalabad. That followed the killing two American soldiers by an Afghan soldier last week. And then on Saturday in the heart of Kabul, two U.S. military advisers were murdered inside the Afghan Interior Ministry. According to police, an Afghan driver shot them from behind as they were working.

Today, a U.S. military spokesman said a nationwide manhunt for the suspect was ongoing.

CAPT. JOHN KIRBY, Pentagon spokesman: The investigation is just now under way. The Afghans are also investigating it as well. We’re working together with them on that. The killer fled. And there is an active search to find him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Taliban claimed responsibility as revenge for the burning of Muslim holy books at a U.S. military base last week.

In all, at least 40 people have been killed in six days of deadly protests and attacks since then. Afghan President Hamid Karzai had appealed for calm, but on Sunday he mentioned the ministry attack only after being asked.

HAMID KARZAI, president of Afghanistan (through translator): Unfortunately, yesterday, we found out that two American officers were killed in the Interior Ministry. Who has done this? Where was he from? We don’t know if he was Afghan or foreigner or whether there was another motivation behind it. It is not clear yet.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. and NATO pulled their advisers from Afghan ministries after the Saturday killings.

And, today, the United Nations also scaled back operations. It all raised new questions about the partnership with Afghans as the U.S. and NATO move to wind down the war.

U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker acknowledged as much Sunday on CNN.

RYAN CROCKER, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan: And these are terrible tragedies, and very worthy of the condemnation they’ve received. But this is not the time to decide that we’re done here. We have got to redouble our efforts. We have got to create a situation in which al-Qaida is not coming back.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In an effort to assuage Afghan anger, President Obama issued an apology last week for the Quran burnings, but that act drew new criticism from his Republican opponents on the Sunday talk shows.

MITT ROMNEY (R): I think, for a lot of people, this sticks in their — in their throat.

RICK SANTORUM (R): To apologize for something that was not an intentional act is something that the president of the United States, in my opinion, shouldn’t have done.

JUDY WOODRUFF: White House officials largely ignored the criticism.

And spokesman Jay Carney insisted the violence aimed at American troops will not force the U.S. to pull out early.

JAY CARNEY, White House press secretary: It is important to remember that 95 to 97 percent of the missions the U.S. forces embark on in Afghanistan, they do so with their Afghan partners. We’re talking about thousands and thousands of operations that proceed successfully with Afghan partners without anything like this happening.

JUDY WOODRUFF: U.S. officials also said there are signs that the protests in Afghanistan are easing.