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Americans Killed In Suicide Bombing In Afghanistan

GUY RAZ, host: From NPR News, this is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz.


RAZ: The sounds of helicopters hovering above the smoldering remains of U.S. armored bus that was attacked in Kabul today. At least a dozen Americans and four Afghans were killed when a suicide bomber rammed a van into that shuttle bus transporting U.S. troops and personnel.

It is the single deadliest attack on Americans in the Afghan capital since the start of the war a decade ago. We'll be back with our usual cover story tomorrow.

But today, we begin with the news from Kabul. And Rod Nordland, a correspondent for The New York Times, joins me now from that city. And, Rod, first, what actually happened this morning?

ROD NORDLAND: Well, a car or a truck, depending whose version you believe, packed with explosives, drove into a van or a bus, really, that was transporting American troops to work in the morning. And the bus was thrown several yards away by the explosion and then completely incinerated. And apparently, everybody in the bus was killed or gravely wounded. There now is one survivor from inside the bus that we know of, and his wounds are very serious.

RAZ: Rod, what do we know about these American soldiers in that bus? Who were they? Where were they going?

NORDLAND: Well, they haven't confirmed who they were. In fact, it's only very recently that they even confirmed that they were Americans. But probably, they were trainers on that particular route. That time of day, those sorts of buses would be ferrying military trainers to the Kabul Military Training Center, training Afghan soldiers or possibly police.

RAZ: Rod, my understanding is that this is a well-traveled route that is used by U.S. military and other NATO personnel. How was this so exposed?

NORDLAND: Well, it's the only way to get from point A to point B in this case. And it's a very large route that has a lot of traffic on it. So, it's impossible to control that traffic to the point that you can make sure who everybody is. What seems to happen in this case is it's also possible for a suicide bomber to just cruise up and down the road until it finds its target. So, even though apparently the bus taking these soldiers took care every day to leave at a different time and to vary its schedule, they were still able to kind of lay in wake for them and then attack them when they saw they coming by.

RAZ: Rod, let me read you the statement from Afghan President Hamid Karzai about today's attack. This is what it says. He says: The enemies of Afghanistan carried out a dastardly and cowardly attack that caused sorrow for some Afghan families.

Now, Rod, at least four Afghans were, in fact, killed, but no mention by Karzai about the loss of Americans.

NORDLAND: No. And that statement is actually about 500 words long, and there isn't a single word in there that mentioned the sacrifices of American or NATO personnel at all. He completely and apparently deliberately just overlooked that.

RAZ: And what does it say about the relationship between Kabul and Washington right now?

NORDLAND: It says that it sucks. And I think it's - and it says that it's deeply troubled. And on the one hand, the Americans are angry, Karzai using them as a kind of punching bag. On the other hand, there's not much they can do about it. And they feel like they just got to suck it up and wait for them to do it again. They don't feel there's any better partner, so they just have to take it.

RAZ: Mm-hmm. Based on your experience after attacks like this on U.S. troops, large-scale attacks, what will the military do in the coming days and weeks to try and prevent this kind of thing from happening again?

NORDLAND: Technically, the security situation in Kabul is no longer the responsibility of NATO and the Americans because Kabul is among those places that was turned over to the Afghans who were supposed to have complete control over the security situation. And obviously, you know, that control has a lot of problems with it.

But I don't think that given the kind of political environment and all that they've invested in this idea of transitioning security authority to the Afghans, I don't think we're going to see any big change in what the Americans were doing here. I think they're just going to, you know, take this as one of their - one of those blows that they just have to suffer and carry on with the fight.

RAZ: That's Rod Nordland. He's a correspondent for The New York Times in Kabul, talking about today's devastating attack in that city that left at least a dozen Americans dead. Rod, thank you so much.

NORDLAND: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.