Friday, December 4, 2009

Peter Bergen, Assessing The Threat in Afghanistan

Peter Bergen appeared on NPR's Fresh Air to talk about President Obama's decision to send more troops, the Taliban and its connection to al-Qaida, and the state of security now. You can listen to the audio and read a synopsis here.

Interview with Yuri Kozyrev

A very insightful interview with Yuri Kozyrev by Anton Marakhovsky for Nikon Russia, Sept. 2009. In this incredible article Yuri talks about his intense experiences working as a conflict photographer in many war zones. He reveals some of the dangerous encounters he has had including his imprisonment by the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in 1991.
Many stunning photographs by Yuri Kozyrev are included in this article.
Photo of Yuri Kozyrev by Sergei Art

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Afghanistan Crossroads

Just wanted to give a plug to a new blog on CNN called "Afghanistan Crossroads." Launched yesterday, it will feature on-the-ground reports, video, analysis, etc., from some of our favorite war journos.

The direct link to the blog is

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Something From Nothing: US Policy in Afghanistan

Nir Rosen has an excellent article about Afghanistan in the Boston Review. The seering conclusion:

Afghanistan should have been easier. Eight years after overthrowing the Taliban—the world’s most detested and backward regime, which provided no service to its people—the United States has restored many brutal warlords the Taliban expelled. The authority the United States established is a failure, corrupt and brutal. Americans and their allies manage to kill innocent civilians, and the Taliban have once again become attractive to many Afghans. A few tens of thousands of troops will not turn things around.

President Obama’s stated goal in Afghanistan is to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda. Why, then, did McChrystal argue for fighting the Taliban and remaking Afghanistan? Why has Obama agreed? Assuming that al Qaeda will set up bases in Afghanistan recalls predictions that Saddam Hussein would give his imaginary weapons of mass destruction to al Qaeda. It assumes that the Taliban are irrational and unaware of their interests. And it rests on much more fundamental assumptions, too: that al Qaeda is a significant threat to the United States and that the best way to reduce the threat is by attacking the movement itself.

The attacks on September 11, 2001 were tragic and criminal. They were painful for the victims and their families and a shock to a powerful, arrogant, and proud nation blissfully unaware that it was so resented.

But beyond the terrible murders, the attacks themselves had little impact on the American economy or way of life, though the response at home and abroad changed everything. Al Qaeda used its “A-team” on that day to attack a slumbering nation. Can a few hundred angry, unsophisticated Muslim extremists really pose such grave dangers to a vigilant superpower, now alert to potential threats?

Al Qaeda is not determined to do evil for the sake of evil. It is a movement that won support, to the extent that it has, in response to America’s imperial excesses. Many of the popular grievances and resentments it mobilizes—including U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and for friendly dictators—are legitimate, even if killing American civilians is a heinous means of addressing them. The resentments were not produced by al Qaeda’s ideology. They have existed for decades. The causes have remained the same, though the discourse used by those who fight imperialism has changed from secular to religious. Addressing these problems at their roots would do much more—for Afghans and for us—than sending in the military once more to do the work of decent politics.

Yuri Kozyrev | Russian Legacy and Loss | Karabash and the Yamal Peninsula

Although Yuri Kozyrev is still a war photojournalist and is headed back to Iraq in the next few weeks, his latest project along with his NOOR colleagues has been to document the devastating effects of climate change on people around the world. In Yuri's case he went to Karabash and the Yamal peninsula and has put together a video with a series of photos and voice-over explanation in English of his experiences for this documentary. The video will be shown along with all his NOOR colleagues videos next week at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

With Troop Pledge, More Demands on Afghans

"In laying down the gauntlet for the Afghans, President Obama is setting criteria for success that he and his field commanders may be able to influence, but which ultimately they will not be able to control."

You can read Dexter Filkins fanalysis on President Obama's speech here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Big Picture - Afghanistan, November 2009

The Boston Globe's "Big Picture" has updated their blog with the November 2009 images from Afghanistan. You can view all the remarkable images here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Maziar Bahari: Iranian guards were "masters of psychological torture."

On Sunday's GPS, Fareed Zakaria spoke with Maziar Bahari, the Newsweek reporter who was detained in Iran after the election protests and spent 118 days in jail there. It was an incredible interview and a stark reminder that the dangers journalists face are not just from guns and bombs.

CNN has not posted the full interview on its own, but the podcast of the entire program is available and the Bahari interview is the first segment. Apparently his Iranian interrogators told him that Fareed is a CIA agent and also used a clip from The Daily Show as "evidence" that Bahari was meeting with spies while in Iran.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

As Afghans Resist Taliban, U.S. Spurs Rise of Militias

Dexter Filkins writes about the rise of the militias in Afghanistan and the the American hope that they will encourage a demoralized Afghan population to take a stake in the war against the Taliban.

"The American and Afghan officials say they are hoping the plan, called the Community Defense Initiative, will bring together thousands of gunmen to protect their neighborhoods from Taliban insurgents. Already there are hundreds of Afghans who are acting on their own against the Taliban, officials say."

You can read the full article here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Why can't we share the truth about war?"

There is a wonderful, moving Op-Ed piece on that asks why the mainstream media is not sharing more of the soldiers' stories, both while in the battle zone and after returning home. It was written by a man who has written/directed a movie about the men and women who perform the notifications to families of those killed in battle, and it raises important issues. After describing a visit to a wounded soldier at Walter Reed Hospital, he says:

In room after room, our delegation encounters stories of war that are just not a part of the national conversation. I keep thinking: Whatever happened to the telling of these stories in America? Do we need a Washington lobbyist to push the soldier's-story agenda?

Individual tales make up the reality of war; anecdote by anecdote, they become the truth of combat. But in the U.S. mainstream media, they have too little presence. How did we get to a place where sharing a soldier's narrative or reading soldiers' names on television or meeting their coffins when they are brought back to their country becomes a political or disloyal act? Why can't we share the truth about war?

Definitely worth a read. The article is here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Jihadi Code

Nic Robertson and Paul Cruickshank have a documentary coming up on International on November 15th titled The Jihadi Code. There are a couple long articles and a clip available on New jihad code threatens al Qaeda

The code itself is very interesting, and since it was developed by former hard-core terrorists, maybe it will get some traction.

Part of the code reads: "Jihad has ethics and morals because it is for God. That means it is forbidden to kill women, children, elderly people, priests, messengers, traders and the like. Betrayal is prohibited and it is vital to keep promises and treat prisoners of war in a good way. Standing by those ethics is what distinguishes Muslims' jihad from the wars of other nations."

Not exactly a standard that al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are upholding...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Same Booms, Different Terrain

Dexter Filkins gives an intelligent comparison and picture of the war in Iraq versus the war in Afghanistan, in a post for the "At War" blog.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

IAVA events for Veterans Week

Pardon me for using the blog to make an unpaid public service announcement... but please take a moment to check out IAVA's events next week to honor our veterans and then publicize, participate, and make sure our troops know how much we appreciate their service.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

CNN to air "Killings At The Canal"

Special Four-Part Investigative Series Killings At The Canal: The Army Tapes to air on Anderson Cooper 360 beginning Nov 10th

Nov 4, 2009 - 12:15:26 PM

Anderson Cooper 360 reports Killings At The Canal: The Army Tapes, a powerful and provocative four-part series about U.S. soldiers who were convicted of murder on the battlefield. The series runs over four nights beginning Tuesday, November 10th, and concludes Friday night, November 13th.

Three sergeants used their service pistols to execute four Iraqi men they had in custody who they believed were insurgents. Questions have emerged: On the battlefield, is murder a crime? And is the Army's policy on detainees realistic for its soldiers in the battlefield?

While many were focused on the outcome of the presidential election, courts-martial were underway at a U.S. Army base in Germany. Ultimately three army sergeants were found guilty of the execution-style murders of the four Iraqis their 13-man unit had detained. The soldiers were certain the Iraqis were insurgents who had been shooting at them. But under Army rules for holding detainees, they knew they could not meet the burden of proof -- and they feared the suspects would be released only to be shooting at soldiers again. So the sergeants made a decision: bypass the detention center, take them to a canal, and kill them.

Anderson Cooper 360 also obtained almost 24 hours of interrogation footage which includes a confession from one of the sergeants.

In the series, investigative correspondent Abbie Boudreau and senior investigative producer Scott Zamost also shine a light on the U.S. Army's policy about how to handle detainees, a policy that was a response to the abuses of Abu Ghraib. Some say it puts an undue burden of proof on U.S. soldiers.

On Saturday, November 14th at 8pm ET, CNN's Special Investigations Unit premieres an hour-long special titled Killings At The Canal: The Army Tapes. The special will reair Sunday, Nov. 15th at 8pm ET.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Rory Stewart on TheSitRoom

By special request... Rory Stewart on TheSitRoom Friday, talking about Afghanistan:

Karzai Rival Says He is Withdrawing From Runoff

Dexter Filkins and Alissa Rubin have an article in the New York Times about the recent news that Abdullah Abduallah, the chief rival to President Karzai, will withdraw from the Nov. 7 Afghan runoff election. Filkins and Rubin write: "Before Mr. Abdullah's announcement, American and other Western diplomats said they were worried that a defiant statement by Mr. Abdullah could lead to violence and undermine Mr. Karzai's legitimacy, and they were urging him to bow out gracefully."

You can read the full article here.

Rory Stewart: A new kind of Tory

The UK's Telegraph has an editorial/commentary on Rory Stewart today. The opening paragraph is as follows:

"Britain doesn't make men like Rory Stewart any more. The former diplomat has trekked 6,000 miles across Asia; at 28, wrote a best-selling book, The Places in Between, about the walk; was governor of a province in Iraq at 29; and last year, as well as becoming a Harvard professor, was hailed by Esquire magazine as one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century. Brad Pitt has already bought the rights to his biopic. And he's only 36."

You can read the full article here.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Big Picture - Conflict in Pakistan

More from The Boston Globe's Big Picture, incredible images from the conflict in Pakistan.

The Big Picture - Afghanistan, October 2009

Part of an ongoing series from The Boston Globe's Big Picture, images of Afghanistan collected over the past month.

Rory Stewart's Appearance on CNN's The Situation Room

Rory Stewart appeared on TSR yesterday to share his perspective on Afghanistan. Here is the transcript of Wolf's interview with Rory:

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: My next guest has a unique perspective on Afghanistan. Rory Stewart literally walked across the country as part of a 6,000-mile journey from turkey to Bangladesh. He served as a coalition deputy governor in Iraq. He's now a professor at Harvard's Kennedy school of government. Rory Stewart is joining us now. Rory, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: The president's been meeting today, as you know, on what to do next in Afghanistan. We expect a decision soon. "The New York Times" columnist this week Tom Friedman suggested maybe it's time to start getting out of Afghanistan. Tom Ricks, the Pulitzer Prize winning writer says it's time to build up and give it some more time. You've suggested, correct me if I'm wrong, maybe it's one option would be to muddle through. What does that mean?

STEWART: Of course I don't say that we should muddle through. What I'm saying though is we need to see Afghanistan in a strategic context which means we need to treat it as a very long-term venture. We need to understand that we have to protect U.S. national security. We should be doing things for the Afghan people, but we should be doing it in affordable and realistic fashion because the major threat that we're really going to face in Afghanistan over the next five to ten years is going to be that people will get fed up and withdraw and that's such a fragile traumatized country that if you were suddenly to go from troop increases to withdrawal and from engagement to isolation you'd probably leave the situation much worse than you found it.

BLITZER: So if you're President Obama right now or one of his top advisers, what do you do in the short term? He's got to make a decision pretty soon.

STEWART: I'm afraid that President Obama faces a massive political problem. He has boxed himself in. If he didn't intend to send more troops, he should not have allowed General McChrystal to write that report. So probably for political reasons I think President Obama will feel forced to send those troops, so we now need to think two to three years into the future because those troops won't remain forever, and we need to define what a long-term strategy would look like, and I would say it would involve saying there is a terrorist threat from Afghanistan, and we need to keep a few troops there to deal with it. We do have obligations to the Afghan people and we should be generous with our development side, but more broadly we should realize that Afghanistan is not the be all and end all. There are many more important countries in the world and we should have a generous flexible attitude towards Afghanistan and should not put all our eggs in one basket.

BLITZER: You're hearing there are 68,000 U.S. troops, part of a bigger NATO operation in Afghanistan right now, but he should accept General McChrystal's recommendation for political reasons to dispatch another 40,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan, is that what you're saying?

STEWART: If I was the president I would not be sending those troops because I don't think it's good for the United States, and I don't think it's good for Afghanistan, so I'm very much hoping that he's not going to send those troops, but I fear that for political reasons he may feel that he's forced to.

BLITZER: Here's what one of your critics Andrew Exum from the Center for New American Security who participated in General McChrystal's review said in the new republic in an article that was just published. "I think the first 22 pages of the McChrystal assessment of the war in Afghanistan were more grounded in evidence- based reality than Rory's was. That's not to say he's delusional, just that he has a very limited view of Afghanistan and operations there." I don't know if you know Andrew Exum but I wonder if you want to respond.

STEWART: Yeah. My response is that what we need to bear in mind, and I have lived in Afghanistan and I don't want to get into a fight with Andrew about this, but I have spent the last three and a half years living on the ground there and as you've said I've walked across the country but it's not about expertise, it's about trying to understand what our limits are. We need to be realistic about what the U.S. military, what the state department, what developing nations can do in a country as poor and fragile and as traumatized as Afghanistan. My guess is that we tend to overestimate our own capacity, overestimate our ability to transform other people's countries, and my guess is that if we're going to look back at this in 20 years time we will realize that we made a mistake, that we tried to do things that we couldn't do. The problem with Andrew's argument and with all these arguments is not that they are not trying to do good things. It would great if we could create a wonderfully stable legitimate effective state in Afghanistan and if we could defeat the Taliban. The problem with it is that we can't and we've got to be more realistic about our own power and our own capacity.

BLITZER: Explain how your walk across Afghanistan, that 600-mile journey that took place back in 2002 or 2003 I believe, but explain how that informed your current decision-making, your current thinking on what to do in Afghanistan.

STEWART: It's more of an intuitive thing, but what I discovered on that journey, of course, is -- and I was sleeping in village houses night after night staying with different families is that those communities are very isolated. They are probably more conservative, more anti-foreign than we like to acknowledge, and their priorities are such that they don't like the Taliban very much, but they certainly don't like the Afghan police and in many ways they don't like foreign soldiers either. We're really fighting for the imaginations of Afghans. We're trying to get them to believe in the Afghan government, and those things are moral, they are political. They are religious. They are not things connected with how many boots you've got on the ground directly and they are not really connected with how much money we spend. In fact, unfortunately, they are connected with things over which the United States and its allies have relatively little influence.

BLITZER: So basically you agree with Tom Friedman as opposed to Tom Ricks? STEWART: I believe we should keep a light long-term footprint in the country. I think it would be very dangerous to follow Tom Friedman's recommendations of leaving entirely. I think we need a light long-term sustainable footprint.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Rory Stewart, for coming in.

STEWART: Thank you for your time.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dexter Filkins on MSNBC

Dexter FIlkins appeared on MSNBC to discuss Ahmed Wali Karzai's involvement in the opium trade and his ties to the C.I.A. Thanks to Sharon for the link!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Brother of Afghan Leader Is Said to Be on C.I.A Payroll

Dexter Filkins contributed to an in-depth article about Ahmed Wali Karzai (pictured above), the brother of the Afghan president. According to the article, Karzai "a suspected player in the county's booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from C.I.A, and has for much of the past eight years...The agency pays Mr. Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the C.I.A.'s direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar, Mr. Karzai's home."

You can read the full article here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Reporter's Tale of Ambush And Captivity

New York Times reporter, David Rohde gave a thirty-eight minute interview today to NPR's Fresh Air host, Teri Gross. Teri Gross is a skilled interviewer and it was really interesting to hear David Rohde talk about his kidnapping and captivity. You can hear the full audio interview here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Former royal tutor Rory Stewart selected for safe Tory seat

For those of you have not heard, Rory Stewart - the former foreign civil servant, writer, and academic tutor - beat five other candidates to win selection to the safe Conservative seat of Penrith and the Border. You can read details of the win and reaction from Rory Stewart in a recent Guardian article. Stewart will be busy getting to know everyone in his constituency; but let's hope he continues to share his invaluable perspective and knowledge of modern war zones to the world.

For more on Rory Stewart, The New Republic profiles him in an article by Jason Zengerle. Thanks to Mary for the tip!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Iraq Twin Bombings

Arwa Damon posted a great tweet this morning with respect to the two bombings in Iraq:

"More than 130 killed in Iraq, 2 gov't bldgs - when will govt stop playing 'things are returning to normal' political games?"

You can follow Arwa Damon on Twitter here. You can also read more about Arwa Damon on her CNN bio page.

The Great American Arm-Twist in Afghanistan

In today's New York Times, Dexter Filkins discusses the events surrounding President Karzai's decision to accept the revised vote totals and a second round of election. He writes:

"Eight years after the American-led coalition pushed the Taliban from Kabul, democracy in Afghanistan is still a very fragile thing. So fragile, indeed, that the deadlock last week seemed to raise fundamental questions about the wisdom and direction of the American-led project here."

You can read the full article here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

His Long War

Is it just too late - politically and militarily - for General Stanley McChrystal to win in Afghanistan? Dexter Filkins takes this question to task in his cover story for the New York Times, Sunday Magazine. There is also a 10 minute audio interview with Dexter at the same link, titled "The Takeaway With Dexter Filkins."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Held by the Taliban: 7 Months, 10 Days in Captivity

David Rohde, a New York Times reporter who was held 7 months in captivity by the Taliban in Pakistan, is finally giving a detailed account of the events surrounding his kidnapping, months in captivity and final escape. This is the first installment of a five-part series. The second installment, "Inside the Islamic Emirate," will appear in the Monday NYT's print edition.

The articles are based on Mr. Rohde's recollections and, where possible, records kept by his family and colleagues.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Obama's War

Rory Stewart was part of the PBS Frontline special "Obama's War". You can watch the full program online or read the transcript of Rory Stewart's interview here.

Thanks Cyn for the tip!

Friday, October 9, 2009

More about MSNBC's Tip of the Spear

More about "Tip of the Spear" can be found on this special MSNBC web page: archives, latest videos, articles, blogs and slideshows. Videos of Richard Engel's recent appearances on many NBC shows are available on this page. He was also Charlie Rose's guest on Oct. 7th.

(Photo: courtesy of David Furst / AFP - Getty images)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Two Arguments for What to Do in Afghanistan

In a recent article for, Peter Bergen and Leslie Gelb agrue two different options for Afghanistan: "Give it Time" and "Turn it Over." You can read both of their arguments here.

Special "Tip of the Spear" on MSNBC

A one-hour special documentary “Tip of the Spear” will be aired on Sunday, Oct. 11th (8pm ET), based on Richard Engel’s NBC Nightly News series.

This special includes never-seen-before footage of firefights, an interview with a Taliban commander and a special behind-the-scenes material.

More info in this World Business News article.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Afghanistan, September 2009

Impressive and heartbreaking images of Afghanistan appeared on The Boston Globe website. They are part of a new regular feature on the Big Picture: a monthly focus on Afghanistan. You can view all the photos here.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rory Stewart's Appearance on Bill Moyers Journal

Rory Stewart, director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, appeared on Bill Moyers Journal to talk about an alternate strategy for the international community in Afghanistan. Stewart argues that the stated goals for Afghanistan of routing the Taliban, banishing Al-Qaeda, and restoring a functioning government are unrealistic. He believes that the U.S. should deploy a much smaller force devoted to stopping al-Qaeda from rebuilding a base in Afghanistan rather than risk provoking a public backlash against any presence.

Regardless of what President Obama may personally desire, Stewart states that political and electoral pressures will likely compel him to deploy more troops. You can watch the video and read the transcript here.

I'll Kill You If You Speak

I'll kill you if you speak, this article by Imma Vitelli appeared in Vanity Fair, Italy edition. It tells the story of Civita an 11 yr. old Afghan girl who two years ago was abducted and raped by her neighbor, a military commander. He put a gun to her head and told her he would kill her if she told anyone. Also she is being threatened with death by warlords in Kabul. There is a follow up article, United for Civita, which has an outpouring of support from readers who want to help her as well as other Afghan victims of brutality. Here is a rough Google Italian-English translation of the original article and the United for Civita article.
Civita, photo by Yuri Kozyrev

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Giving Afghan Women Hope

Atia Abawi reports on how some Afghan women who have been considered property, are now getting help. The video version is below and you can read her report here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Afghanistan: Ware, Bergen, Stewart

Anderson Cooper hosted a panel discussion about Afghanistan on AC360 last night with guests Michael Ware, Peter Bergen, and Rory Stewart. If you're looking for a clue as to what the US should do now... these guys know the score:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Calculations of War: Which Risk is Reasonable

Clark Hoyt, the Public Editor of the New York Times has written an editorial in response to criticism directed at reporter, Stephen Farrell for venturing into dangerous territory in pursuit of a story in Afghanistan. The debate has been prevalent in the British press, where they went as far as questioning whether Farrell had been "too grand" to take a safer route and embed with the British or American military. Hoyt brings up an excellent point about how embedding does not always eliminate the risk.

Personally, I abhor a recent headline in The Daily Mail of London which read "Journalist's lust for glory and a risk too far." However, I have mixed feeling about the risk that reporters take. There is a definite need to venture into these dangerous areas of the world to fully understand a story, and I am in awe of reporters that do this. At the same time, the price to pay for such a story could be the reporters and crews lives. As Hoyt aptly puts it, "...even with the best precautions, covering war can exact horrible costs.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

'Behind The Veil'

The Globe and Mail reporter Jessica Leeder has a video series called Behind The Veil An Intimate Journey into the Lives of Kandahar's Women.

Friday, September 18, 2009

'Kite' Author's Plea

CNN's Atia Abawi travels with one of my favorite author's, Khaled Housseini, as he visits internally displaced Afghans.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Reporter's Account: 4 Days with the Taliban

The New York Times has published Stephen Farrell's account of his four-day ordeal. It appears on their blog "At War, Notes From the Front Lines".

John Burns on Those Who Aid War Journalists

"Behind these deaths lie complex and highly emotive issues for those of us who have traveled to war zones for the Times and other news organizations, involving our responsibilities for the lives of the locally employed people who make it possible for us to operate in faraway lands -- interpreters and reporters like Sultan Munadi (pictured left), but also drivers, security guards and domestic staff members; altogether, in the case of The Times, at least 200 people in Iraq and Afghanistan over the years of those two wars."

You can read John Burns full blog entry here.

Hell? No. I Won't Go.

The last post from Sultan Munadi appeared in the New York Times website on September 2, 2009. Munadi was the New York Times interpreter kidnapped along with Stephen Farrell, and killed in the military raid in Afghanistan which freed Farrell. In this heartbreaking post, Mundai explains why he would never leave Afghanistan.

NY Times's Reporter, Stephen Farrell is Freed in Afghan Raid

The New York Times has an article on Stephen Farrell, who was recently kidnapped by the Taliban and then freed by a military raid that killed his Afghan interpreter, Sultan Munadi, a British commando, and Afghan civilians.

David Rohde, a New York Times reporter who recently escaped after seven months of captivity, also had the opportunity to work with Mr. Munadi and called him an "extraordinary journalist, colleague and human being."

You can read the full article here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

CNN's Cooper, Gupta, Bergen and Ware Headed To Afghanistan

Starting next week for the anniversary of September 11th, CNN's Anderson Cooper will anchor "AC360" from Afghanistan. Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be embedded to deliver reports on field trauma surgery, while Peter Bergen and Michael Ware will provide analysis and field reports.

Looking forward to the reports and coverage. Stay safe all!

Afghan Tribal Leaders Say Karzai's Team Stole Votes

In today's New York Times, Dexter Filkins writes about a big election allegation in Afghanistan. In one district there is charge of forging 23,900 ballots: "The accusations by Mr. Bartz, and several other tribal leaders from Shorabak, are the most serious allegations so far that have been publicized against Mr. Karzai's electoral machine, which faces a deluge of fraud complaints from around the country." You can read the full article here.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Rough Terrain

The Washington Post has an intriguing piece by Vanessa M. Gezri about an experimental program in Afghanistan, where teams of anthropologists and social scientists are working alongside soldiers to help win over the Afghan people. I first heard about this program on NPR. As with most programs in Afghanistan, there are controversies as well as struggles. The full article appears here. Alongside the article, is a multimedia gallery about the program called "Reaching Out in Afghanistan."

Seven Days That Shook Afghanistan

"In the space of a single week, a string of disturbing military and political events revealed not just the extraordinary burdens that lie ahead for the Americans and Afghans toiling to create a stable nation, but the fragility of the very enterprise itself."

The article by Dexter Filkins appears in tomorrow's edition of the New York Times.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Bearing Witness: Five Years of the Iraq War

At this year's Visa pour l'Image photojournalism festival there is a new Web Documentary award category. One of the nine finalists is from Reuters "Bearing Witness: Five Years of the Iraq War". It is a profoundly disturbing and very graphic five minute multimedia presentation. Something we would never see on television, not in the U.S. anyway. It reminded me of when Michael Ware talked about the footage he took in Fallujah, Nov. '04 that jars the sensitivities and depicts the terrifying experience of what war is really like.

Cheney's Jihad

Peter Bergen has a great piece in Foreign Policy about why enhanced interrogation techniques don't enhance U.S. interests. You can read the full article here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

PR v. Journalism

An interesting update on the PR firm that is still recommending to the Pentagon which reporters should be given an embed with American troops based on the number of "good news" stories they have produced in the past. How is it possible that this is still going on?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A School Bus for Shamsia

This week's edition of the Sunday, New York Times Magazine is dedicated to 'The Women's Crusade'. There are many wonderful articles appearing in the magazine, including one by Dexter Filkins. Filkins writes about his involvement with the Mirwais Mena School, the brave Shamsia, and the state of education for girls in Afghanistan. This is an amazing follow-up to his piece from January, 13, 2009. In the former article, Filkins wrote about how Afghan girls were defying terror and embracing school even after being scarred by acid.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Baghdad truck bomb aftermath

Arwa Damon shows us the enormous crater caused by the truck bomb detonated outside the Foreign Ministry Wednesday, as well as the remains of the nearby houses that were destroyed in the blast.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Under fire in Afghanistan

ITN's Nick Paton-Walsh comes under fire at a remote outpost in Afghanistan.

(This is from the airing on The Situation Room because only about half of the report was posted at

Afghanistan: A War We Should Be In?

Rory Stewart appeared as part of a panel on Channel 4 News in London, UK, discussing the Afghan war. Along with Rory Stewart the panel consisted of a mother of a British soldier killed in Afghanistan, a Captain who served from 2003-2005, an Afghan interpreter, and a Pakistani community worker. The video of the panel is shown in three parts below:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Major Attacks in Baghdad Reveal Iraq's Vulenerability

With all eyes focused on Afghanistan's election tomorrow and the 24-7 healthcare debate coverage here in the U.S., it is important to not let Iraq fade into the background. Iraq continues to be a violent and fragile state. In a coordinated attack involving powerful truck bombs, insurgents killed 95 people and wounded nearly 600 people at the Foreign and Finance Ministries in central Baghdad.

Sam Dagher filed a detailed report for the New York Times and made the following disturbing assertion: "Nearby American soldiers stood by helplessly - despite the needs of hundreds of wounded - waiting for a request for help from Iraqi officials that apparently never came."

John Burns on Afghanistan

In today's 'At War' blog, John Burns answers questions on Afghanistan. He made the following statement ahead of tomorrow's presidential election: "Afghans, of course, would like the kind of elections Americans enjoy, but the ones they are being offered are surely a far, bar better way of assigning power than any offered by the ruthless men of the Taliban.

Rory Stewart: The 'Impossible' Afghan Mission

Rory Stewart appeared on "On Point" with Tom Ashbrook for a reality check on Afghanistan's election eve. Asked whether Pakistan and Afghanistan should be treated as one problem, as the administration asserts, he dismissed the notion with a colorful analogy:

"It's like you're going into a room with an angry cat a big tiger. And the angry cat is Afghanistan and the big tiger is Pakistan. Pakistan has nuclear bombs. Pakistan has Bin Laden. Pakistan can destabilize India. And you're in that room and you're whacking the cat. And somebody says to you, 'Why are you whacking the cat?' And you say, "Oh, it's a cat-tiger strategy - it's an Afghanistan-Pakistan Strategy.' Really the reason we're whacking the cat is we don't know what to do about the tiger."

You can list to the full audio interview with Rory Stewart here. The interview with Rory begins at 5:45 point.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Afghanistan Imposes News Censorship on Election day

Carlotta Gall of the New York Times writes about the restrictions on all news organizations, "banning them from reporting suicide bombings and other violence during the Thursday vote."
The restrictions follow a spike in violence as recent as today, where seven people were killed and 52 wounded after a suicide car bomb in Kabul.

You can read the entire article here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Taliban Threats May Sway Vote in Afghanistan

In today's New York Times, Dexter Filkins writes about Taliban threats and lack of polls in the Pashtun Region.

He states that "across the Pashtun heartland in eastern and southern Afghanistan, where Taliban insurgents hold sway in many villages, people are being warned against going to the polls...Conditions have been so chaotic that many Afghans have been unable to register to vote...In many areas, there will not be any polling places to go."

You can read the full article here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

At War: Notes From the Front Lines

The New York Times has a great feature on their website that includes blogs/posts from their war correspondents. Included in this group is Dexter Filkins, Stephen Farrell, Carlotta Gall, Ashley Gilbertson, John F. Burns, and many more.

Today's post is aptly titled "At War Contributors". You can find the latest and most recent posts here. Check it out and show your support to the many journalists who sacrifice their time and safety to bring their stories home to us.

Generation Islam

CNN's Christiane Amanpour presents another terrific investigative special this week, premiering Aug 13 on Domestic and August 14th on International. She traveled to several war-torn countries to find out what the future promises to be like for the next generation of Muslims -- raised turning such turbulent times, are they destined to become enemies of the West or will they be the ones who transcend the differences between cultures and forge a better future for generations to come?

“In my travels through Gaza and Afghanistan, again and again I found people more interested in a future than a fight. Parents who want the best for their children and children who know there has to be something better,” says Amanpour. “And their allegiance will be to whoever helps them get there.”

CNN also has a web page up with links to all the different components of the program and links to the different organizations that are working to better conditions in Gaza, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. It is a terrific resource for anyone looking to learn more about the regions and the issues.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Inthesandbox's Blog & Inside Iraq Blog

Wanted to draw attention to two excellent blogs:

The first blog is new to me (many thanks to Delie for the tip). It is called "Insidethesandbox" and can be found here. You can also follow the blog on twitter. The purpose of the sandbox blog is to give one insight into the world of war reporting, from the viewpoint of journalists and photographers on the front line.

The second blog is called "Inside Iraq" and can be found here. Inside Iraq is updated by Iraqi journalists working for McClatchy Newspapers. They are based in Baghdad and outlying provinces and for security reasons, their full names are not given.

Also, do not miss CNN's Backstory clips (many thanks to Delie again, for posting them). You can find a link to Delie's archive of CNN Backstory here or on the link at the bottom of this blog (next to the wonderful 'Wareabouts' brought to us by Cyn). For those of us in the U.S. who do not get CNNI and are in search of honest reporting, these sites are invaluable.

Hardly Winning

Short article in Foreign Policy by Peter Bergen.

Life, Death and the Taliban

Charles M. Sennott is the Executive Editor and the Vice President of GlobalPost an online international news service. He is an an award winning journalist and author with a distinguished career in international reporting for both print and broadcast news organizations.

A longtime foreign correspondent for The Boston Globe, Sennott served as the Globe's Middle East Bureau Chief based in Jerusalem from 1997 to 2001 and the Europe Chief based in London from 2001 to 2005.

He recently returned to Afghanistan and Pakistan where he revisited the people and places he got to know through his reporting. While in the region, he spoke with high-level Taliban officials and visited a refugee camp and a girls' school His reporting is part of a special multimedia project for the GlobalPost entitled "Life, Death and the Taliban."

He appeared on NPR's Fresh Air to talk about his recent trip to Afghanistan, his extensive GlobalPost report on the Taliban and the value of international reporting from the ground. You can listen to his interview here.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Karzai In His Labyrinth

The New York Time's Sunday Magazine has an excellent piece on President Karzai by Elizabeth Rubin. Elizabeth Rubin is a contributing writer and Edward R. Murrow fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. She has reported extensively on Afghanistan for the magazine and spent several days in the presidential palace with Karzai and his entourage for this article.

Rubin writes about Karzai's isolation, the distrust the people have for him, his relationship with the warlords, and the corruption inside his inner circle. The article also has a preview of the various presidential candidates including Dr. Abdullah Abdullah (a leading candidate) and Ashraf Ghani (a former Afghan finance minister and adviser to the World Bank).

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Precarious Election in Afghanistan

This slide show by Tyler Hicks of the New York Times, captures some amazing images of Afghanistan as it readies itself for the election.

Roadside Bomb Kills 6 Afghan Civilians

Dexter Filkins filed a report in today's New York Times website about a roadside bomb that killed six civilians in Afghanistan. The violence comes three weeks before the country's presidential election. In Filkin's piece there are links to a short video on the roadside bomb and a must read article by Carlotta Gall about the upcoming elections.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

More troops needed for Afghan war

Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann comment on the need for more troops in Afghanistan.

Lunch with Rory Stewart

Financial Times columnist, Emily Stokes sat down with Rory Stewart for an insightful chat (Rory Stewart states that there is no distinction between personal chat and interview). Over lunch at a sedate restaurant of New England cuisine, they touched upon Stewart's Turquoise Mountain charity, the need for more of a development strategy in Afghanistan, British politics and his upcoming BBC documentary series on Lawrence of Arabia.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

CNN special Witness to War

Witness to War' airs on CNN International on Thursday, July 30, 8am and 11am, Saturday, Aug 1 3am and 1pm, Sunday, Aug 2 10am and 10pm (all ET).

'Witness to War' sees a team of six CNN correspondents (Atia Abawi, Stan Grant, Nic Robertson, Reza Sayah, Michael Ware and Ivan Watson) provide an unique, first-hand account of the horrors of conflict - from civil war, to the war on terror and the recent offensive in the Swat valley - in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The unparalleled one-hour documentary allows them to draw on their years of experience living and working in the region, as they answer several critical questions, including: What effect does the ever-present violence have on people's psyches? What danger does the constant conflict pose to the world? And, how difficult is it to report from a region where journalists are often targets?

They also investigate the human cost of conflict, discussing the stories they covered and the people they met that most profoundly affected them. They look at the reality of life in refugee camps, examine how children are impacted by the instability, and perhaps most importantly, discuss whether there’s any hope for the future.

More about this new CNN documentary and correspondents' interviews here.

No word yet as to whether it might air on CNN Domestic, but it might not hurt to send an email via the Contact Us page to ask for it!

** Update - August 4 **

CNN/US will air Witness to War on Saturday, August 8, at 8pm ET (1st airing).

And the promo:

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Irresistible Illusion by Rory Stewart

In the London Review of Books, Rory Stewart argues that Beltway foreign-policy thinkers are “minimising differences between cultures, exaggerating our fears, aggrandising our ambitions, inflating a sense of moral obligations and power, and confusing our goals” when it comes to Afghanistan.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Afghanistan: A War We Cannot Win by Rory Stewart

In a recent editorial in the UK's Telegraph, Rory Stewart argues that the threat posed by al-Qaeda is exaggerated and the West's vision of a rebuilt Afghanistan flawed.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Sleeping Soldiers"

Interesting article in PDN about Tim Hetherington's latest photo/video display and how it came about. The work in "Sleeping Soldiers" is from his trips to the Korengal Valley with Sebastian Junger.

(Tip for this goes to Dispatches Magazine, visit them online or follow them on Twitter, @dispatches_mag .)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Portraits of Instability

images from the world's most fragile states.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

CNN's Reza Sayah back from Iran

Reza Sayah was one of the few foreign journalists reporting from Tehran. Back in the U.S., he explains how it was like to cover the turmoil in Iran.

Interviewed for

On American Morning, interviewed by John Roberts:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Paul Marchand, 1962-2009

This is a real tragedy.
From Dispatch magazine:

One of the great names of Bosnian reporting and one of the great mavericks of French journalism Paul Marchand took his own life last weekend.

Read the entire post.

Afghan Leader Outmaneuvers Election Rivals

On the heels of the turmoil in Iran, Dexter Filkins reports on Afghanistan's upcoming nationwide election. Despite his unpopularity, President Hamid Karzai appears to be headed to victory.

Monday, June 22, 2009

RIchard Engel on Iran

Richard Engel appeared on Meet the Press to discuss Iran.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

New York Times reporters

Two incredible articles from and about NYT reporters...

In Tehran, where most foreign journos have been kicked out of the country or have been warned not to leave their hotel rooms, Roger Cohen (who is not a young guy) was out in the streets with the protesters Saturday, running from the Basiji and getting tear gassed:

Also, David Rohde -- who was kidnapped by the Taliban seven months ago outside of Kabul, Afghanistan and held captive in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan -- escaped and is now safe. The media kept his abduction secret for the sake of his safety:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Journalists targeted in Afghanistan

CNN's Atia Abawi reported about journalists facing threats - and much more - in Afghanistan.

She appeared on CNNI's BackStory to discuss about this issue and she also shared another look on the Afghan road.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tomas Etzler: a look at Kabul

CNN Producer Tomas Etzler made a video for International's program BackStory showing the beauty of Kabul. It is an amazing look at everyday life that most of us never get a chance to see.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Inside Iraq: Living With the Enemy

It was brought to my attention today that we don't have anything here about Arwa Damon. Can't fathom how we missed her, because she did so much amazing work in Baghdad through the years.  This week she had a documentary air on the International program World's Untold Stories about what life is like now in Iraq as they try to put the fractured society back together. Here are the clips posted on

Arwa has now moved on from the Baghdad bureau and will be covering Indonesia. But right now, she is in the States for some R&R and to attend her 10-year college reunion. An article about her appeared in the local paper: CNN correspondent, Skidmore alum depicts experiences abroad.