Afghanistan

US pushes to finish Afghan dam as challenges mount

KAJAKI, Afghanistan (AP) — In the approaching twilight of its war in Afghanistan, the U.S. is forging ahead with a giant infrastructure project long criticized as too costly in both blood and money. It's a $500 million effort to refurbish the massive Kajaki dam and hydro-electric power system with an extensive network of power lines and transmission substations. It is supposed to bring electricity to 332,000 people in southern Afghanistan, increase crop yields and build up a cohort of trained A

As Foreigners Leave, Kandahar Worries About Future

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – By switching from studying business management to training as a nurse, 19-year-old Anita Taraky has placed a bet on the future of the southern Afghan city of Kandahar – that once foreign troops are gone, private-sector jobs will be fewer but nursing will always be in demand. Besides, if the Taliban militants recapture the southern Afghan city that was their movement's birthplace and from which they were expelled by U.S.-led forces 11 years ago, nursing will likely be one of the few professions left open to women. Taraky is one of thousands of Kandaharis who are weighing their options with the approaching departure of the U.S. and its coalition partners. But while she has opted to stay, businessman Esmatullah Khan is leaving.

The real extreme sport: skiing in Afghanistan

KOH-E-BABA MOUNTAINS, Afghanistan — A gaggle of villagers deep in the mountains of central Afghanistan stared in wonder as a professional snowboarder from New Zealand launched himself over half a dozen young children, two of them perched atop donkeys. It was one of the oddest interactions between foreigners and Afghans in the decade since U.S.-led forces invaded the country, and the result of a surprising tourism push in a country at war. International aid workers and enterprising locals are trying to attract snowboarders and skiers to the untouched slopes of the Koh-e-Baba mountains to improve the fortunes of Bamiyan province — the site of towering Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, and one of Afghanistan's poorest provinces.

Afghan pass shows struggle of handover

GULRUDDIN OUTPOST, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. forces scored a strategic victory against the Taliban four months ago when they seized a mountain pass that had enabled suicide bombers to make their way from Pakistan to the Afghan capital, Kabul. But as American troops draw down in the war, it will fall on Afghan soldiers and police to hold this dirt road in eastern Afghanistan's Taba Kakar mountains. So far, the signs are not encouraging. The district police chief was a drug addict who was fired at the end of November only after he punched a U.S. military translator, according to American soldiers. He then sold or stole everything from electronics to teacups, even removing the batteries from the remote control for the heating unit supplied by the Americans.

AP Exclusive: Afghanistan obstructs graft probes

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A major investigation into an influential Afghan governor accused of taking bribes has been shut down and its top prosecutor transferred to a unit that doesn't handle corruption cases, Afghan and U.S. officials said. The closing of the investigation into the former governor of Kapisa province, Ghulam Qawis Abu Bakr, comes on the heels of a grim, unpublicized assessment by U.S. officials that no substantive corruption prosecutions were taking place in Afghanistan despit

US ambassador urged restraint on Afghan visas

KABUL, Afghanistan — Ahmad Taki is desperate to get out of Afghanistan, fearing for his life after receiving death threats in midnight phone calls because he works for the Americans. Nine months after applying for a visa to the U.S. designed for cases like his, he's heard nothing and feels abandoned by the people for whom he's risked his life. Taki is one of about 2,300 Afghans who have applied to a special program that awards U.S. visas to Afghans who have worked for the U.S. government for at

Afghans face tough challenges after NATO transfer

MEHTERLAM, Afghanistan — In this city of 100,000, people are scared to wander out at night, the chief judge was recently fired for allegedly collaborating with insurgents, officials accuse each other of corruption and the police force is barely large enough to patrol the streets. As of this week, Afghan forces are in charge of security, replacing the Americans who still keep insurgents from swarming into town through raids in the surrounding valleys of Laghman province. The tenuous peace in Me

Chinese mine in Afghanistan threatens ancient find

MES AYNAK, AFGHANISTAN - It was another day on the rocky hillside, as archaeologists and laborers dug out statues of Buddha and excavated a sprawling 2,600-year-old Buddhist monastery. A Chinese woman in slacks, carrying an umbrella against the Afghan sun, politely inquired about their progress. She had more than a passing interest. The woman represents a Chinese company eager to develop the world's second-biggest unexploited copper mine, lying beneath the ruins. The mine is the centerpiece of

Military keeping traumatized soldiers in combat zones

FORWARD OPERATING BASE BOSTICK, Afghanistan — Sgt. Thomas Riordan didn't want to return to Afghanistan after home leave. He had just fought through a battle that killed eight soldiers, and when he arrived home his wife said she was leaving. He almost killed himself that night. When his psychologist asked what he thought he should do, Riordan said: Stay in Colorado. Instead, the military brought Riordan back to this base in the eastern Afghan mountains, where mortar rounds sound regularly and soldiers have to wear flack jackets if they ste

Afghan army struggles with ethnic divisions

ARGHANDAB VALLEY, Afghanistan — The Afghan soldiers look like they belong. They wear beards, carry Soviet-era rifles and stride confidently through fields of wheat, melons and okra. In one village, a young girl brings them a jug of milk to drink under the shade of a tree. Officers in the U.S. Army routinely praise their Afghan partners: They know the culture, can relate to the villagers and understand regional politics. But in southern Afghanistan, the focus of the U.S. war effort, nearly all the Afghan soldiers are foreigne

How trauma of war hits U.S. troops

FORWARD OPERATING BASE BOSTICK, Afghanistan — More than half a year after one of the deadliest battles ever waged by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the men of Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry are still fighting in — and with — their memories. They cannot forget Oct. 3, 2009. On that day, 300 insurgents attacked two outposts in eastern Afghanistan manned by 72 soldiers, sparking a 12-hour fight. By nightfall, eight U.S. soldiers were dead.

Snipers still taking shots at Marines in Marjah

Marjah, Afghanistan – The first shots came from the north, sending Marines ducking into the nearest ditch -- some filled with putrid water. More shots rang out from the southwest: a possible ambush from two sides. The southern Afghan town of Marjah is still contested even though U.S., NATO and Afghan forces wrested control from the Taliban in a three-week offensive in February and early March. Marines go on patrol to meet with village elders about jobs programs or starting schools, all part of a campaign to win over the population. But the troops still have to watch out for hidden bombs or Taliban snipers.

Taliban launch fear campaign in Afghan town

MARJAH, Afghanistan — A month after losing control of their southern base in Marjah, the Taliban have begun to fight back, launching a campaign of assassination and intimidation to frighten people from supporting the U.S. and its Afghan allies. At least one alleged government sympathizer has been beheaded. There are rumors that others have been killed. Marjah residents awake to letters posted on their doors warning against helping the troops. Winning public support in this former Taliban stronghold in Helmand provi

Different kind of power struggle in Kandahar

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – About 90 factories sit vacant in the economic capital of southern Afghanistan. They could fight militants in a way no army could, employing thousands of people and giving them a reason to shun the Taliban. A lack of reliable electricity is what’s keeping the factories silent and useless in the fight against the insurgency. And it’s the insurgency, in large part, that’s keeping them that way. The dilemma is the same throughout Afghanistan’s ungoverned south, where NATO is gearing up for a major offensive: Development is needed to wrest people away from militants, but fighting regularly thwarts such projects - wasting millions in the process.

Afghans Turn To The Twitterverse For Election

KABUL (AP) – Afghans turned to the Twitterverse to share news of Taliban intimidation at the polls and voter turnout in the presidential election, even as the country was just trying to keep electricity running and attacks at bay. The memory of neighboring Iran's media crackdown during that country's vote is still fresh here, and orders from the Afghan government on the eve of the election to censor reports of violence during Thursday's voting suggested news on the ground could be thin.
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