Save The Children Office In Jalalabad Attacked By Insurgents

Jan 24, 2018
Originally published on January 24, 2018 9:37 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

We begin this hour with two stories about Afghanistan - new startling findings from an official investigation into abuses by Afghan forces. But first, in eastern Afghanistan, attackers today stormed a compound belonging to the aid group Save the Children, inflicting many casualties. This is the latest of several recent assaults directed at Westerners in the country. For more, we're joined by NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre. Hi, Greg.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Hi there, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Give us details of what exactly unfolded in today's attack.

MYRE: Eastern city of Jalalabad, a suicide bomber comes to the gate of this compound of Save the Children, blows himself up, allows some gunmen to go inside. Shooting goes on for hours. The Afghan Security Forces come, then these running gun battles. Three employees of Save the Children are killed. Ultimately the five attackers are killed. But again, it shows these terrible kinds of attacks we're seeing on aid groups. ISIS is claiming responsibility.

Now, Save the Children, which has been operating since 1976 in Afghanistan, says it's suspending operations. And this points to the larger problem these aid groups are having. They're not the only one to face these kind of attacks.

KELLY: Trying to operate in what still is a war zone, sadly...

MYRE: Yes.

KELLY: ...In some of the big cities. Now, this follows another attack in the capital, in Kabul over the weekend - any link, any pattern? What can we say about it?

MYRE: No apparent link. This was the Taliban, which hit the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, killed at least 20 people. The State Department is now saying that four Americans were among those killed in this attack that began Saturday night and went into Sunday morning.

This is a real landmark hotel in Kabul - sits on a hill over the western part of the city. Way back in the 1990s, I was there covering the civil war. The hotel would be closed, but we would go up to the rooftop just 'cause it gave you this bird's-eye view of the whole city.

KELLY: Oh, wow.

MYRE: And you could see the shelling was rather than going to that neighborhood and get a sense of the fighting. It is a place where Westerners go. And here we see it's still a big target.

KELLY: Absolutely. Now that - these two attacks we've just been talking about - you went through there in Kabul, in Jalalabad - so cities. What about what's happening outside the cities? Can you give us a snapshot of the security situation throughout the country?

MYRE: Not good - the Taliban operate mostly in the rural areas, and it's really a military stalemate. The Taliban can't take and hold the big cities, but they can't really be defeated in the rural areas. And so what we're seeing is this sort of standoff.

The Americans are still there - 14,000 troops assisting the Afghans. U.S. airstrikes are increasing, and that may be one of the reasons that the Taliban and ISIS are trying to carry out high-profile attacks in the cities - to show that they can still fight. But we're really not seeing any prospect of a breakthrough on the battlefield.

KELLY: All right, so that's the battlefield. What about on the civilian side - things look any better there?

MYRE: Really have to squint pretty hard to find any silver lining. The government is weak. Corruption is a big problem. The economy's just so dependent on foreign aid, which, you know, is not as significant as it used to be as the foreign presence has shrunken. You know, just last week, there was a movie premiere here in the U.S., a movie called "12 Strong" about a small number of Americans who went in in those early days and defeated the Taliban.

KELLY: Right after 9/11, yeah.

MYRE: Great success - it was a real reminder of how promising it was at that moment. But these attacks we've seen the past couple of days is a real reminder of how stark the situation is right now.

KELLY: NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre - thank you, Greg.

MYRE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.