TODAY   |  October 28, 2009

Taliban attack on Kabul U.N. post kills 12

Oct. 28: At least 12 people are dead after Taliban gunmen with automatic weapons and suicide bombs stormed a guest house being used by U.N. staff in Kabul. NBC’s Richard Engel and Brian Williams report from Afghanistan.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: But we're going to begin with those deadly attacks in the Afghan capital. NBC 's chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is in Kabul with the latest. Richard , good morning.

RICHARD ENGEL reporting: Good morning, Meredith . The biggest attack took place at a small hotel used by the United Nations to house its staff. It began just after sunrise. A plume of smoke, gunshots, explosions and confusion; this is how much of Kabul awoke at 6 AM local time this morning. Helicopters circle, trying to identify what is under attack. Violence almost never pushes this deep into Kabul , to the city's most secure neighborhood, home to diplomats, government officials and foreign journalists. This is the roof of our bureau in central Kabul . It's in a normally quiet residential area . But for the last half-hour we've been hearing an intense gunfight very close by with automatic weapons, RPGs and grenades. But soon

it's clear what's happened: At least three insurgents dressed in police uniforms and strapped with suicide vests have just attacked a nearby compound full of foreigners. It's still smoking when we arrive. Afghan security say a group of militants stormed this guest house used by workers from the United Nation . Afghan forces are still securing this area. They just evacuated the dead and wounded. The United Nations says six of its staffers were among the 12 killed; nine UN employees were injured.

Unidentified Man: I have a broken foot.

ENGEL: Some jumped from bedrooms on the upper floors to escape the flames and bullets as militants move from room to room.

Mr. ADRIAN EDWARDS (UN Spokesman): This is a totally senseless thing that's happened here. It's an outrage and it's a tragedy. We are at the moment having to inform the families of what's happened.

ENGEL: But the attacks weren't over. Insurgents fire rockets at the luxury Serena Hotel and raid another guest house , both popular with foreigners. Afghan police struggle to maintain order, shutting down streets so ambulances can cut through traffic. With roads blocked, many Afghans escape downtown on foot. The Taliban claimed responsibility for today's attacks. The Taliban said it targeted the United Nations because the UN is helping to organize elections scheduled to take place here on November 7th . The militants said there would be more attacks to come. Meredith :

VIEIRA: NBC 's Richard Engel , thank you very much. It is 7:05, and for more here is Matt.

MATT LAUER, co-host: All right, Meredith .

Profile : Morale appears high among troops in Afghanistan despite October being the deadliest month since the war began

MATT LAUER, co-host: " NBC Nightly News " anchor Brian Williams is also in Afghanistan , he's at the Bagram Air Base . Brian , as I say good morning to you, let's take note of the fact that October has now become the deadliest month since this war began for US troops . And I know you spent some time on Tuesday with US Special Forces as they learned of that grim milestone. What's their reaction and how does it change their outlook on the mission there?

BRIAN WILLIAMS reporting: Well, Matt , imagine being in a dining hall with several people in uniform, they look up at the television and see confirmation of eight more killed in action on top of the news we woke up to Monday, 14. There's not a man or woman in uniform, of course, who starts the day believing they will be next. They talk about it in an almost dispassionate way. Morale seems very high here. We've spent a lot of time with a lot of people in uniform. If there is any sensitivity, it's to the delay in a decision from the White House , from the administration, are they going to go all in, come in big, or retract their position in several areas? But while that goes on in Washington , the battle tempo behind us continues. We just saw two F-15s getting twin 500-pound laser-guided bombs loaded under their wings. They're headed out right now to do air support , and that continues here at Bagram 24/7.

LAUER: Brian , you also spent some time on Tuesday with commandos from the Afghan army , and there's a lot of talk about increasing the training levels of those soldiers so they can take on an increasing burden of security in that country. What's your take on it? How ready are they? How have they progressed?

WILLIAMS: Matt , I had one American commander who actually had to catch himself before he used the phrase "when they stand up, we can stand down." They're very tempted to talk like that. Of course, given the history of that phrase in the Iraq conflict , they're reluctant to repeat that. But it's kind of a work in progress, Matt. They have been -- they have been kind of tested on the job, but they are still working through these classes of 1,000 commandos at a time. For the commandos, they get extra pay, but there is a real stigma when they go back to their villages and families. They try to remove any military markings. Other families, village elders learn they have gone to the other side, in their view in many cases, and are now working for the Afghan military .

LAUER: All right, Brian Williams , who's in from Afghanistan at the Bagram Air Base . And you can have -- Brian , thank you very much. And Brian will have much more live from Afghanistan tonight on " NBC Nightly News ." It's 7 minutes after the hour. Once again, here's Meredith .