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As Troops Continue Afghan Offensive, Focus Turns to Civilian Outreach

U.S. Marines pushed further into the Helmand province in southern Afghanistan this week, as word came of a truck bombing in a village south of Kabul that killed at least two dozen people. A Washington Post reporter gives an update on the military efforts and the bombing.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now an update from Afghanistan and the U.S. Marine offensive in the south. We get that from Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post in Kabul. Judy Woodruff talked with him earlier this evening.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Rajiv, it's good to see you again. First of all, what can you tell us about today's truck bomb near a school in Logar province, which I gather is not far from Kabul?

  • RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN, Washington Post:

    This was a particularly horrific act of violence here today. A total of 25 people were killed, 15 of them young children, in the worst bombing in more than a year here in Afghanistan.

    What appears to have been the case was that there were explosives that were secreted underneath some lumber in a truck that was heading toward Kabul. That truck overturned late last night. This morning, as police went to investigate and a bunch of children gathered around, those explosives detonated, leaving just a horrific trail of devastation.

    What's particularly disturbing here is that there's a belief that these explosives might have been on their way to Kabul, the Afghan capital, and Logar province is one of the areas that has seen a significant increase in the number of U.S. troops over the past year. And to see an act of violence like this over there certainly raises some disturbing questions about the sorts of security condition just on the very outskirts of the capital here, Judy.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now, you just came back from southern Afghanistan, which is the site of the main U.S. Marine offensive. Tell us what you observed there.

  • RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN:

    Well, it was a massive operation that I saw over there, but one that was far less focused on acts of overt military power, on firefights and nighttime raids. The real focus there has been on trying to win over the local population.

    It's a very unique position these thousands of U.S. Marines are being put in. They're out there walking around, trying to engage with the local population, trying to convince them that they're here more for the safety of Afghan people than they are to go after and pursue the Taliban.

    But the hope among commanders out there is that, by trying to win over the local population, they'll effectively create a wedge between the people and the Taliban.