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What’s behind recent Taliban attacks in Afghanistan?

At least 122 people have been killed in Kabul, the capital in Afghanistan, by recent attacks claimed by the Taliban. The latest was on Saturday, when an ambulance packed with explosives drove through a security checkpoint and detonated in the heart of the city. Doug Ollivant, who served as a director at the National Security Council under Presidents Bush and Obama, joins Hari Sreenivasan.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Funerals are underway for the victims of yesterday's suicide attack in Kabul Afghanistan. More than a hundred people died when an ambulance packed with explosives raced through a security checkpoint and detonated in a busy area. Speaking at St. Peter's Square today Pope Francis condemned the violence in Afghanistan. Day they pull off Lugano how long will the Afghan people have to endure this inhumane violence.

  • POPE:

    Let us pray for the victims and for their families and let us pray for all those in the country who continue to work to build peace.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All of this came just a week after gunmen stormed Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel killing 22 people. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks. For more on the Taliban's increased activity in Afghanistan I'm joined from Washington D.C. by Doug Ollivant who served as a director at the National Security Council under President Bush and Obama and is now a managing partner with Mantid International. Doug this is almost a redo of conversation we might have had three years ago four years ago even 10 or 12 years ago. How is the Taliban still as strong as they are?

  • DOUG OLLIVANT:

    The Taliban are still strong as they are because nothing has fundamentally changed. The Taliban are still a terrorist group has these attacks made make plain these last three attacks you highlighted not just the ambulance attack against their Green Zone and the Intercon but also a smaller attack on the Save the Children office of all things in Jalalabad. So there clearly a terrorist group but their aims have not changed. They want to be back inside the government and the government seems unable to repel them and we seem unable to help the government in repelling them.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And what about the kind of surge-like strategy that we have employed elsewhere. Is that happening in Afghanistan. Is there a repercussion of that?

  • DOUG OLLIVANT:

    Well we've increased slightly the number of troops that we have in Afghanistan. But we now have about 15, 16,000 troops, if we read the unclassified numbers but in 2010 we had 100,000 troops. And General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker are a team of leadership. If they couldn't do it in 2010 with all those resources why would we think that a sixth of that number today is going to make any significant difference?

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And at the same time the Taliban seem to be making some inroads into gaining some legitimacy within the Afghan government.

  • DOUG OLLIVANT:

    While this has always been the you know the trouble the Afghan government when it comes on tends to get deeply involved in corruption and the people dislike the corruption they dislike that the judicial system is corrupt and the Taliban for all its brutality is a much less corrupt organisation and its judicial systems are fair if extremely harsh. So they've always had this appeal at least within the Pashtuns section of the Afghan population.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And put this in perspective for us our involvement in Afghanistan in relation to Russia's.

  • DOUG OLLIVANT:

    We've been there forever we've been there almost twice as long as the Russians were in Afghanistan, for that matter we've been there about twice as long as our main operations in Vietnam. This is a long time, 2001, and 9/11 was over 16 years ago.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Is there any strategy that the U.S. has either telegraphed or is working on to try to accelerate some sort of stability there?

  • DOUG OLLIVANT:

    Well certainly we've been trying to make Afghanistan more stable for virtually all of those 16 years. But it's it's not working, Afghanistan simply doesn't have the social capital the intellectual capital the development to stabilize itself and we've been trying it for 16 years. But the amount of commitment need in terms of manpower in terms of money and in terms of time is simply not something that's really acceptable so we just keep stumbling along.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Doug Ollivant of a bit of Mantid International thanks so much for joining us.

  • DOUG OLLIVANT:

    My pleasure.

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