Afghanistan

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.

The Risks Of Reporting From Syria

Dec 20, 2012
Turkish journalist in Syria
AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 28 reporters have been killed Syria this year — making it one of the most dangerous places on earth for the media to cover. What makes reporting from Syria so dangerous, and why do journalists continue to risk their lives for the story? 

Tamim Ansary On Afghanistan's Interrupted History

Nov 26, 2012

The US military and its allies are drawing up plans to leave Afghanistan by 2014, but it will be some time before the nation is truly independent. Peace in Afghanistan has been interspersed with foreign invasion for centuries, from the Mongol Empire to today’s war. We talk with writer Tamim Ansary about his new book, “Game Without Rules: The Often Interrupted History of Afghanistan,” and what Afghan independence might look like in the future.

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