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Afghanistan

Red Cross To Scale Back In Afghanistan

Oct 26, 2017

Some people traveled for days across the harsh terrain of northern Afghanistan to reach the orthopedic center only to find its gates closed. Staff and security guards had tried to spread the word that the center was suspending operations after a Spanish physical therapist was gunned down in September, but some never received the devastating news. They stood there in tears, say local staff.

Updated at 2:35 p.m. ET

An American woman, her Canadian husband and their three young children have been freed after five years in captivity by an extremist group in Afghanistan, the White House said Thursday.

Caitlan Coleman, now 32, was several months pregnant when she and her husband, Joshua Boyle, were abducted in 2012 while on a trip to Afghanistan.

In 2015, Kiana Hayeri was living in Kabul and noticed something strange. She was helping her roommate, an Australian TV producer, with a script translation. The main character, a mother of three who divorces her abusive husband, was always described in a way that referred to a male relative.

President Trump inherited it with the presidency and now is putting the albatross that is Afghanistan around his own neck.

AP trump
AP Photo

President Donald Trump is addressing the nation Monday night, beginning at 6 p.m. PT, on U.S. engagement and "the path forward" in Afghanistan and South Asia.

Senior U.S. officials tell NPR that the president is expected to order about 4,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. The decision follows months of deliberation within the Trump administration, involving top military commanders, political advisers and even enlisted veterans of the nearly 16-year war.

NPR journalists David Gilkey and Zabihullah Tamanna died a year ago this week, ambushed on a remote road in southern Afghanistan while on a reporting assignment traveling with the Afghan National Army.

Since their deaths, NPR has been investigating what happened, and today we are sharing new information about what we learned. It's a very different story from what we originally understood.

Updated at 2:45 p.m. ET

A huge truck bomb explosion early Wednesday killed at least 80 people and wounded more than 400 others in Kabul's diplomatic zone, Afghanistan's Ministry of Public Health says. The attack struck the busy neighborhood in the capital city just before 8:30 a.m. local time, during Kabul's morning commute.

The explosion destroyed or damaged more than 50 vehicles, the Ministry of Interior Affairs said.

Updated at 4 a.m. ET Saturday

A government spokesman has increased the death toll from Thursday's bombing using the "Mother of All Bombs" in Afghanistan to 94, up from 36.

Ataullah Khogyani, the spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, said in a tweet Saturday that 94 ISIS members were killed in the attack on an ISIS underground complex, including four top commanders.

"Fortunately there is no report of civilians being killed in the attack," Khogyani told The Associated Press on Saturday.

The U.S. has dropped the most powerful conventional weapon ever used in combat to hit an underground ISIS complex in Afghanistan, Pentagon officials say.

The nearly 22,000-pound "MOAB" — standing for Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or as it's also known, the "Mother of All Bombs" — was designed during the Iraq War but had never before been used on the battlefield.

The U.S. has used the bomb's predecessor, a smaller but still massive weapon known as the "Daisy Cutter," in Afghanistan before.

Afghan Women Say No To The Dress

Mar 19, 2017

It's a story with a happy ending about a demonstration that didn't happen — after activist Afghan women beat back the Ministry of Education decision that schoolgirls must exchange their current already modest uniforms for styles that are more restrictive and concealing.

On March 14, the Afghan ministry unveiled the new designs. Schools in the country were closed at the time (the school year in Afghanistan goes from March through January and set to reopen on the 20th or 21st. The ministry said the change would be effective when classes resumed.

The State Department is running out of visas for Afghans who are in danger because they worked with the U.S. government in Afghanistan.

On Thursday, the U.S. State Department announced that it expected the visas to be depleted by June 1 and that "No further interviews for Afghan principal applicants ... will be scheduled after March 1, 2017."

It's perhaps the unlikeliest symphony orchestra in the world — an all-female ensemble from a strict Muslim society where it's often dangerous for young women to step outside of their homes unescorted. It's called Zohra — the name of a music goddess in Persian literature, according to its founder.

And they were performing at an unlikely venue — a hall attached to Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, a bombed-out ruin in western Berlin commemorating the horrors of World War II. It's just steps from where Berliners experienced their first ISIS-linked terror attack six weeks ago.

Days after she was deported from Pakistan to her native Afghanistan, the woman whose piercing green-eyed stare landed a spot on the cover of National Geographic will next travel to India for medical care.

That's the news from Shaida Abdali, Afghanistan's ambassador to India, who said via Twitter that Sharbat Gula "will soon be in India for medical treatment free of cost."

The Pentagon says two Americans were shot and killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, and at least two others were wounded. One of those who died was a service member, the other was a civilian.

NPR's Tom Bowman reported the assailant opened fire at the entrance to an ammunition depot near Camp Morehead, a training center for Afghan commandos. The camp is about an hour's drive south of Kabul.

As Tom reported for our Newscast unit:

The European Union and the government of Afghanistan have agreed to a plan that could send tens of thousands of asylum seekers back to Afghanistan, even as fighting in some parts of the country intensifies.

Gunmen attacked the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul on Wednesday evening, as students and staff hunkered down in place or fled for their lives, witnesses say.

Hospital officials say at least one student was killed and at least 14 injured, as Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul, tells our Newscast unit.

"Right now there are dozens of Afghan police, security forces, special forces. They've surrounded the campus," Glasse says. Here's more:

Flanked by his secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, President Obama announced that he was once again slowing the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

By the time President Obama leaves office, 8,400 American troops will remain in the country. Obama said this was "the right thing to do."

"It is in our national security interest ... that we give our Afghan partners the very best opportunity to succeed," Obama said.

The Afghan army commander said the treacherous road to Marjah, in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand, was now safe. His forces had driven out the Taliban a few days earlier, he added.

"The road is open, so no problem," said Lt. Gen. Moeen Faqir. "Of course I hope you go there and find the reality and reflect it."

Zabihullah Tamanna, the Afghan journalist who was killed on Sunday along with NPR photojournalist David Gilkey, has been laid to rest in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Zabihullah and David died when the armored Humvee they were riding in, part of an Afghan military convoy, was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade fired by Taliban militants. NPR's Tom Bowman and Monika Evstatieva were riding in a different vehicle in the convoy, and were not injured in the attack.

Updated 1:50 a.m. ET Monday:

President Obama, in Vietnam on Monday as part of a 10-day trip to Asia, confirmed the killing of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour. He calling Mansour's death a milestone in U.S. efforts "to bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan."

In a statement, the president said in part:

Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour has likely been killed by a drone strike authorized by President Obama, the Associated Press reports.

According to the Associated Press, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said the attack occurred in a remote region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

"He said the U.S. was studying the results of the attack, leaving Mansour's fate unclear," the AP says.

A second male combatant accompanying Mansour in a vehicle is also likely to have been killed.

It took Abdul Arian months to realize that his decision to migrate from his home country, Afghanistan, to Germany was a huge mistake.

He set off nearly a year ago, hoping to be granted asylum so he could attend a university and study psychology.

His journey, organized by smugglers, was long and perilous. Arian, 24, says he nearly drowned off the shores of Greece, when the inflatable dinghy he was traveling in capsized.

He says he and his fellow travelers got lost somewhere in Hungary and walked through the rain for 24 hours before they found the path again.

File photo of Bowe Bergdahl at his graduation from basic training with the Army.
Bergdahl family

The desertion case against Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will go to a full court-martial, his attorney said Monday.

Bergdahl walked away from his remote outpost in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban.

A Pentagon investigation into a deadly U.S. airstrike on a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, has found the attack was the result of human error, compounded by malfunctioning computers and communication failures.

Gen. John Campbell, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, detailed the findings in a Pentagon briefing Wednesday. "This was a tragic but avoidable accident caused primarily by human error," he said.

Andrew Holmes, a former soldier from Boise, is speaking out about his war crimes and his time in prison. He was the youngest member of what came to be known as the “kill team” from Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Afghan school girls are treated at a hospital after an earthquake in Takhar province, northeast of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. At least 12 students at a girls' school were killed in a stampede as they fled the shaking building.
AP Photo/Zalmai Ashna

Seattle’s small community of Afghan refugees is still feeling emotional aftershocks following Monday’s earthquake.

The epicenter of the magnitude 7.5 quake was in northern Afghanistan.

Speaking from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, President Obama said on Thursday that slowing down the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is "the right thing to do."

"Afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be," Obama said, so the United States will leave 9,800 troops in the country through most of 2016. By 2017, about 5,500 troops will remain in a few bases across the country.

Obama said that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan will remain focused on two non-combat objectives: to train Afghan forces and carry out counterterrorism operations against al-Qaida.

U.S. Will Keep More Troops In Afghanistan Than Planned

Oct 15, 2015

Senior administration officials say President Obama will announce Thursday that he will keep a larger military presence in Afghanistan than he had planned. The president had hoped to whittle the U.S. forces down to just 1,000 by the time he left office.

The officials say 9,800 troops will stay in Afghanistan through most of 2016, and 5,500 in 2017.

NPR's Mara Liasson reports the decision was driven by recent successes by anti-government Taliban fighters:

U.S. troops in Afghanistan lowered the flag and boxed up their gear at the end of last year as President Obama declared the formal end to 13 years of U.S. combat operations.

File photo of Bowe Bergdahl at his graduation from basic training with the Army.
Bergdahl family

There’s a recommendation on whether Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will face a court martial, but it’s not being released to the public yet.

Bergdahl’s attorney says the hearing officer overseeing the Army’s case sent his recommendations Monday to the U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

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