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Amid Heightened Violence, The U.S. Has 1 Day Left To Wrap Up Afghan Operations


Someone fired rockets toward the international airport in Kabul this morning. No one has claimed responsibility. The U.S. used a missile defense system to repel those rockets, and no casualties have been reported. Meanwhile, the Pentagon confirms that the U.S. military did conduct an air strike yesterday on a vehicle in Kabul. U.S. officials say there were members of ISIS-K in that vehicle. But there are reports that civilians were also killed.

With us now is Ali Latifi, a correspondent with Al Jazeera English in Kabul. Ali, thank you for being here.

ALI LATIFI: Thank you.

KING: What happened earlier today, Ali, with this attempted rocket attack?

LATIFI: It happened early in the morning. Apparently, there were five rockets fired near the vicinity of Hamid Karzai International. Reports, as you said, are that it was intercepted by anti-missile defense systems. As far as I know, the U.S. hasn't fully commented on whether that actually took place in terms of the anti-missile systems. But that's all we know at this point.

KING: OK. Let me ask you about another story that is developing there. On Sunday, the U.S. did conduct an airstrike. U.S. Central Command is investigating reports that civilians were killed. I should note that NPR does not have confirmation of civilian deaths. But I understand you spoke to people who say, yes, civilians were killed in that airstrike.

LATIFI: I was there at the house that the airstrike took place in. Ten members of a family, including children as young as 2, 3, 4, some teenagers were also killed. The oldest person was 40. He was an engineer. Another was a member of the Afghan National Security forces, whose last posting was in Kandahar. So the family is angry and confused as to why, you know, their family members who had worked for the government, who had worked for Afghan forces, who had been, you know, working with foreigners, were the targets of this attack even as they were waiting for their SIV application to allow them to leave the country. They were - according to the family members, they were just awaiting the phone call to - that a car would come and get them and take them to the airport. So their question is, if you allowed us to come to the U.S., if we cleared that, then how could we have possibly been Daesh bombers? And their families...


LATIFI: Yeah, sorry. And the family is clearly upset, you know, upset that their family is being called, you know, so-called Islamic State, that, you know, children are being labeled that way, you know, that the house has faced severe damages. The vehicles in the house were burned. They said they spent much of last evening essentially just picking up the remnants of their dead, you know, brothers and sisters and cousins.

KING: And is there anger directed at the United States at this point? Is that what you were told?

LATIFI: Yes. Yes. Complete, you know? They kept saying that, you know, this is what the U.S. has done all along, that it's treasonous, that, you know, they are killing Afghan civilians and that this is what they did in the beginning of the war and this is what they're doing at the end of the war. And the fact that they handed the government over to the Taliban and now they're claiming Daesh was around, you know, has angered and led to a lot of suspicion amongst people.

KING: OK. The U.S. is working on a deadline here, with the intent of fully withdrawing by tomorrow. More broadly, when you speak to Afghans in Kabul, how are they feeling about this?

LATIFI: Happy...

KING: Happy.

LATIFI: ...Relieved because they feel as if, you know, this war hasn't really fixed anything. And, you know, we're right back where we started from with Taliban rule. And then now, a new group by the name of, you know, the so-called Islamic State is appearing. And, you know, attacks against them are once again killing civilians.

KING: Ali, have you had any interaction with the Taliban in Kabul?

LATIFI: Yeah. I mean, they seem - most of them are, you know, outwardly on the street. They're fine. One of them yelled at me for wearing jeans and a T-shirt one day. But other than that, they basically go about their business and let you go about your business in public. What happens behind closed doors? You know, it's very difficult to prove. But outwardly, they are putting on, you know, a face. But you also see - for instance, yesterday, when they were trying to line people up outside one of the banks, having them come in 10, 20 at a time - when people were getting unruly or cutting the line, you could see them hitting people. You could see them firing into the air. You could see them taking switches and hitting people. So it's very conflicted.

KING: Ali Latifi is a correspondent with Al Jazeera English in Kabul. Thank you.

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