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Lots Of Theories But Few Answers To Explain Surge In Afghan Violence


November was a hard month in Kabul. The Afghan capital was rocked by an unprecedented string of a dozen suicide attacks. The Taliban attacked NATO and diplomatic convoys as well as Afghan security forces and officials. There were also high-profile attacks on compounds housing foreign workers. NPR's Sean Carberry reports there are a lot of theories explaining last month's surge in violence but few clear answers.


SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: Just as many in the international community here were sitting down to Thanksgiving meals, the Taliban attacked. A suicide bomb went off outside the compound of a U.S. contractor. That triggered this gun battle that raged on and off into the middle of the night. Eventually, security forces killed the remaining attackers. The death toll - four Taliban and no foreigners or security forces.

The following day was quiet in the city, but that didn't last long. On Saturday, the Taliban stormed the guest house of a small aid organization. One militant blew himself up inside the house. The blast killed the South African director of the organization. It also killed his 17-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter.

MARTINE VAN BILJERT: Well, we don't know if it's finished or if were in the middle of something that's going to continue.

CARBERRY: Martine Van Bijlert is a Kabul-based analyst. She says one theory behind the surge in attacks is it's a reaction to Parliament ratifying the U.S. and NATO security agreements. Those deals will allow some 12,000 foreign troops to remain here for the next two years.

VAN BILJERT: Other thoughts that people have is that it might be linked to the new government.

CARBERRY: As in an effort to undermine and overwhelm the new government, but Van Biljert is not convinced the Taliban could react so quickly to current political conditions.

VAN BILJERT: Usually, trends like this have a much longer preparation time.

CARBERRY: This summer the Taliban launched a number of large-scale attacks in rural parts of the country. While Afghan forces often struggled to hold their ground, no districts fell to the Taliban. Van Biljert believes that failure fueled the Taliban pivot to Kabul. While there's no chance of the militants taking over the city, spectacular attacks on foreign targets here attract headlines.

VAN BILJERT: And it also gives the impression that they're much bigger than they are.

CARBERRY: And so far, it's enough to drive some foreigners out of the country and dampen the optimism that came with the inauguration of the new government two months ago. Sean Carberry, NPR News, Kabul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sean Carberry is NPR's international correspondent based in Kabul. His work can be heard on all of NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.