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What’s behind the Taliban’s latest attacks in Kabul?

Four attacks on foreigners took place in Afghanistan on Thursday, the latest in a string of bombings by the Taliban. Speaking from Kabul, New York Times foreign correspondent Rod Nordland tells Judy Woodruff what is unusual about the most recent attacks and how President Ashraf Ghani’s relationship with the U.S. will affect the Taliban.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The Taliban carried out a series of attacks in the Afghan capital of Kabul today. The insurgents have stepped up violence in recent weeks, as the U.S. continues to draw down its military presence there.

    It started with a Taliban suicide bombing against a British Embassy vehicle, killing five, including a British national. More than 30 people were hurt.

  • MAN (through interpreter):

    People are wounded, even children. Someone's eye was wounded. Another's ear was missing. Wounded victims were everywhere.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Then, later in the evening, another explosion. This one targeted the headquarters of an American relief agency. It was followed by more than an hour of heavy gunfire echoing through the usually quiet diplomatic quarter. No one was killed in this second round of fighting, but a third attack, with reports of gunfire and explosions, continued late today.

    All this caps a violent week in Afghanistan. On Monday, two American soldiers were killed when their convoy was bombed by the Taliban. On Sunday, a suicide bomber targeted Afghan police officials at a volleyball tournament in Eastern Afghanistan. Sixty-one were killed, mostly civilians.

    The attacks come as the future U.S. military role in Afghanistan becomes clearer. Also on Sunday, the Parliament approved an agreement with the U.S. and NATO, permitting 12,000 foreign soldiers to stay in the country through next year.

    Parliament member Shukria Barakzai voted for the deal.

    SHUKRIA BARAKZAI, Member of Parliament, Afghanistan: I believe this is very important for the future of Afghanistan. If I want my kids and millions of other children to live in prosperity, we need a strong partnership between Afghanistan and the U.S.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    In another move, the new Afghan government will allow U.S. special forces to again assist Afghan security in carrying out controversial nighttime raids.

    Meantime, as their mission continues, U.S. troops were able today to celebrate Thanksgiving.

  • SOLDIER:

    I am definitely going to try to be home next year for Thanksgiving.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    It is the 14th Thanksgiving that U.S. soldiers have marked in Afghanistan.

    For more on today's attacks and other developments, we turn to New York Times correspondent Rod Nordland in Kabul. I spoke to him a short time ago by Skype.

    Rod Nordland, welcome.

    So it's been a day of attacks by the Taliban, and the latest in a series of attacks that they have been making.

  • ROD NORDLAND, The New York Times:

    That's right.

    We had four attacks altogether today. Most of them were pretty minor. One was quite serious, killed five people, including a British bodyguard, I think, working for the British Embassy. And the frequency, although they weren't — they weren't — most of them weren't very successful, the frequency of the attacks is something we haven't seen in Kabul before for quite a long time.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    How unusual for them to be going after the diplomatic quarter in Kabul?

  • ROD NORDLAND:

    Pretty unusual. This is a pretty heavily guarded area, although, in the beginning of the year, there were a couple successful attacks here, one horrendous one in which they got into a restaurant only a couple blocks away from today's attack, not even a couple blocks away, and killed 21 people, many of them foreign aid workers and diplomats.

    And then there was another attack on that same street in which a journalist was assassinated. But it is probably the most heavily guarded part of the city full of diplomats, journalists, aid groups and so on. So it's quite worrisome.

    And it took a long time to subdue it. It was — it went on pretty much for five hours, three attackers, before they finally caught the last one just about an hour ago, actually.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Rod, we reported on the decision by the new president, President Ghani, to permit U.S. special forces to work with the Afghan forces in nighttime raids. How significant a move is that?

  • ROD NORDLAND:

    I think it's very significant.

    It changes a couple years of a contentious issue between the United States and its Afghan allies. President Karzai was very opposed to it. A lot of those attacks took place long after he ordered them to stop taking place. And it was just a huge bone of contention between the two countries. The Taliban are very concerned about it.

    It's — according to the Americans, it's the most effective weapon they have against Taliban leadership, hunting them down in their homes at night, when they're most vulnerable. It also has led to some — some really serious accidents and mishaps that have had a lot of blowback publicly.

    And Karzai responded to that, and President Ghani seems to be more concerned about restoring a tool that's very effective.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And, Rod, we also reported on, just in the last few days, the decision by the Obama administration to allow a larger — to have a larger number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan into 2015. How much difference is that expected to make?

  • ROD NORDLAND:

    They're still pretty small numbers that we're talking about. Still, nobody thinks it's going to be more than 12,500, including European and NATO troops, 9,800 Americans.

    Even if it bumps up a little bit from that, it's still a pittance really compared to the sort of force levels we saw only two years ago, when there were 100,000 Americans and 140,000 total NATO.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Rod, I don't know how often you're able to talk with, spend time with U.S. troops there, but how do you read their mood, their morale these days? Do they feel, you think, they're accomplishing what they were sent there to accomplish?

  • ROD NORDLAND:

    I think there's a lot of confusion.

    And, you know, I think a lot of people — a few months ago, we were really in — and even now to some extent — really in the kind of, "let's get out of here and put this behind us" mode. And you still feel a lot of that.

    And although a lot of the troops that are here now will be gone by the end of the year and they're very rapidly drawing it down, but there are some whose tours have just begin and will be going into next year. And I think there's a feeling that this is really kind of America's forgotten war.

    I feel that way, as a journalist, that it's kind of the forgotten war, that even though we're here covering it, people back home are not really that interested anymore. We do it as kind of a duty to keep people kind of informed, but I don't feel this sort of great overwhelming interest and concern about it that we used to have.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, I hear what you're saying. And on a day when we with turn to the story because of the Taliban attacks in Kabul, that's what caught everyone's attention. And, unfortunately, it's bad any day, but on Thanksgiving Day, it gets our — it certainly gets our attention.

    Rod Nordland reporting for us from Kabul, Afghanistan — Rod, we thank you.

  • ROD NORDLAND:

    Pleasure.

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