Afghanistan | KUOW News and Information


Brig. Gen. Viet Luong sits on a case of MREs, the soldiers' daily meals. He's inside a cavernous hanger at an Afghan army base outside the southern city of Kandahar.

A couple dozen American and Australian soldiers lounge on green cots lining the sides. Banners of U.S. military units hang on the walls. Between the troops is a 6-foot-tall shipment of Girl Scout cookies.

Luong's job is to train the Afghan military to fight a guerrilla force, the Taliban. But he's willing to talk about another guerrilla war, long ago.

In June, KUOW Speakers Forum featured an event titled, “Exposing the Truth of U.S. Torture,” during which Brigadier General David R. Irvine lambasted U.S. torture practices abroad.

“If these kinds of practices were used by another nation on American serviceman, who were captives, who were prisoners of war, we as a nation would not tolerate it,” he said.

Wounded In Afghanistan, But Still Running

Nov 11, 2014
AP Photo/Mary Schwalm

On Edward Lychik's 21st birthday, his fellow troops gave him a gift.

The Army combat engineer normally rode in the first truck in his convoy. Lychik's job was to ensure the road his battalion traveled in Afghanistan was bomb-free.

To celebrate Lychik's big day, his comrades let him ride in the rear — the convoy's last truck.

David Hyde talks to Gordon Lubold about the decision the Obama administration made to broker the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity and the implications it might have for other captured Americans.

Flickr Photo/isafmedia (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks to Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow with the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, about the upcoming elections in Afghanistan.

David Rohde is a former New York Times journalist who was held captive by the Taliban for seven months.

He says Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was just released after being held for five years by the Taliban, faces a long road ahead, that begins with debriefing by the U.S. military who want to know more about the Taliban.

Rohde speaks to Here & Now’s Robin Young.

Along with celebrations over the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, there are growing questions. House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers of Michigan is asking whether the Obama administration broke the law in not consulting Congress over the negotiations and says this is a “dangerous” precedent: “If you negotiate here, you’ve sent a message to every Al Qaeda group in the world — by the way, some who are holding U.S. hostages today — that there is some value now in that hostage in a way that they didn’t have before.”

After five years in captivity, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is finally free. The American POW is now receiving medical aid at a U.S. military hospital in Germany.

Herat is one of the most graceful cities in Afghanistan. Its traditions go back to the Persian empire, with its exquisite blue and green glass, and its thriving poetry scene.

Now Herat is struggling with a darker side: drug addiction at a higher rate than almost anywhere else in the country.

In a dusty ravine on the outskirts of the city, Ahmad, a scruffy 20-year-old, is striking a match to inhale heroin.

It's a simple act he repeats throughout his day — heating a dark slab of heroin paste smeared on a bit of foil so he can smoke it.

Bill Radke talks with Northwest News Network reporter Jessica Robinson about a possible deal to free Idaho soldier Bowe Bergdahl. Army Sergeant Bergdahl has been held captive in Afghanistan by the Taliban since 2009.

There is mixed news this week on the fate of American prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl. The Associated Press is reporting efforts to bring home the Northwest soldier are in disarray.

Three American citizens were killed Thursday at a Christian organization's hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, when an Afghan security guard opened fire. Another American citizen was reportedly wounded.

One of those killed was an experienced pediatrician from Chicago who had been working at the hospital for seven years, according to media reports. The other two killed were a father and son whose names and ages had not yet been released.

"A veteran Associated Press photographer was killed and an AP reporter was wounded on Friday when an Afghan policeman opened fire while they were sitting in their car in eastern Afghanistan," the wire service reports.

Flickr Photo/The National Guard (CC-BY-NC-ND)

President Barack Obama has warned his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai that the U.S. may pull all of its troops out of his country by the year's end.

Obama conveyed the message in a phone call to Karzai, who has refused to sign a security agreement.

The Idaho family of captured U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl is welcoming an effort to get their son home through a prisoner swap.

Lashkar Gah is the capital of the volatile province that alone grows half of Afghanistan's opium poppy. Cultivation here grew by 34 percent over last year.

On Fridays, hundreds of men gather at the bazaar along the Helmand River, the lifeblood of this arid province. Vendors sell everything from livestock to boxes of artisanal medicine.

There's no sign of poppy here. In fact, the farmers we talk to like 26-year-old Khairullah, who goes by one name, say they are actually too poor to grow it.

It was jarring for survivors and witnesses of the 2012 attack by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales on two villages in Afghanistan to come to the U.S. to testify at his trial this month, translator Ahmad Shafi tells Morning Edition.

They were at Washington State's Joint Base Lewis-McChord — a place much different than their homes in Kandahar. What's more, the U.S. military's system of justice was strange to them.

A military jury has sentenced Robert Bales, the U.S. Army staff sergeant who admitted to killing 16 Afghan civilians in 2012, to life in prison without parole. During the punishment hearings held this week, Bales was confronted by family members of victims and people who survived the attacks of March 11, 2012.

AP Photo/Peter Millett

Staff Sgt Robert Bales, who pleaded guilty in June to the murder of 16 Afghan civilians, is being tried before a military jury of six who will decide whether he should be eligible for parole. Nine Afghan villagers who survived the massacre have flown to Joint Base Lewis-McChord for the sentencing trial.

For more than a decade, Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord has been sending soldiers off to war and welcoming them back home. Now this cycle of deployments and homecomings is winding down.

Over the next month, more than 1,000 soldiers from the 4th Stryker Brigade will return home. More than 200 were welcomed back Wednesday. And this time they don’t expect to go back to Afghanistan.

News that the Taliban is open to a prisoner swap is bringing renewed hope to supporters of a captive soldier from the Northwest.

Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho, has been a Taliban prisoner for nearly four years now, and there's still no timeline for his return.

A senior Taliban spokesman in Doha, Qatar, told the Associated Press that the group would be willing to turn over Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban operatives held at Guantanamo Bay. It would be the first step – a confidence building measure – in wider negotiations over the future of Afghanistan.

U.S. officials say the Taliban has agreed to begin long-stalled negotiations with the Afghan and American governments at the group's new political office in Doha, Qatar.

The talks with the U.S. could begin in days, NPR's Scott Horsley tells our Newscast unit. He says the milestone agreement comes after months of "diplomatic spadework."

Flickr photo/ Ricardo Mangual

Yesterday US Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales pleaded guilty to a brutal massacre. The night time killings took place on March 11 of last year in two small villages located near a remote military camp in Kandahar. Since the massacre Associated Press reporter Kathy Gannon has spent a lot of time with the survivors and the families of the victims in Afghanistan. She describes how they've dealt with the massacre's emotional aftermath.

There's something exceptional about this interview. While it's possible to get swept up into the international drama of an event like the Bales massacre, Gannon reminds us that at the center of the media storm there are ordinary people who have suffered.

Full list of stories from KUOW Presents, June 6:

High Desert Warrior

Correction 6/6/2013: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Staff Sgt. Bales was from Lake Tapps, Ohio.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the American soldier from Lake Tapps, Wash., charged with killing 16 Afghan civilians during night time raids on two villages last year, pleaded guilty Wednesday to avoid the death penalty. The judge, Col. Jeffery Nance has accepted his plea agreement which takes the option of the  death penalty off the table.

What Sgt. Bales’ Guilty Plea Means for Afghanistan And The United States

Jun 5, 2013
Masooma, pictured with her children, recounted the events of pre-dawn March 11, 2012 when she says a U.S. soldier rampaged through two villages killing 16 people, mostly children. Staff Sergeant Robert Bales pleaded guilty to the massacre.
AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus

 Today Sergeant Robert Bales admitted to killing 16 Afghan civilians. How will Afghanis react if Bales does not get the death penalty?  What will that mean for the US troop withdrawal strategy? Patricia Murphy reports live from the trial, and Ross Reynolds interviews Larry Goodson, South Asian Specialist at the US Army War College; plus Kate Clark, a senior analyst with the Afghanistan analysts network, and President Hamid Karzai's brother Mahmood.

There's just a sliver of light in the eastern sky as the patrol leaves the American compound through a thick metal door.

They scamper across Highway 2, a narrow asphalt road that leads to Kabul, just an hour's drive away — if not for the war. They cross an old graveyard and head toward the silhouette of a tree line, all seen through the eerie green glow of night-vision goggles.

KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

Ross Reynolds talks with Seattle Army Capt. Will Swenson about receiving the Medal Of Honor and his actions during the Battle of Ganjgal in Afghanistan.

This interview originally aired on November 8, 2013.

Flickr photo/ kennethharper

In the decades leading up to the civil war, white Americans uncomfortable with the rising numbers of free blacks came up with a plan. Get rid of them. Specifically, convince them to resettle in Liberia. It was America's original "self-deportation" scheme. But things didn't go exactly according to plan.

List of stories from KUOW Presents,  May 15:

The Interfaith Amigos On Death And Afterlife

Feb 19, 2013

Death is something we all grapple with. What do the world's major religions teach? The Interfaith Amigos join us with a look at what religion has to say about mortality and the afterlife.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in Washington this week for meetings with President Obama and other senior administration officials. The talks are expected to help set the framework for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan after the bulk of American and NATO forces leave at the end of 2014. One of the key issues to be discussed is the number of American troops to remain in Afghanistan after that date.