On Conflict

Peaceful Protest Emerges Amid Congo’s Violence

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo—Election delays and deadly clashes threaten to plunge this resource-rich country the size of Western Europe back into civil war, but have also given rise to peaceful activism in the country’s most violent region. In eastern Congo, which was at the epicenter of a brutal 1998-2002 conflict and where suspected rebels killed at least 36 people late Saturday, this new wave of peaceful youth activism...

World’s Newest Country Struggles to Survive

NAIROBI, Kenya—South Sudan is running out of money, which along with a civil war and mass food shortages is putting the world’s youngest country at risk of becoming its youngest failed state. In the past two years, the U.S. government has spent more than $1 billion to try to help stave off escalating violence in South Sudan, government figures show. Other Western countries have also given massive amounts. Secretary of State John...

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.

Afghan father tries to cope with rampage that took his family

HARMARA, Afghanistan — Mohammad Wazir can barely take a sip of water because it reminds him of his 7-year-old daughter, who brought him a glass three days before she was killed with 10 other loved ones in a shooting spree allegedly carried out by a U.S. soldier in southern Afghanistan. Wazir said he had asked his wife for a drink but his daughter Masooma brought it instead. “She said: ‘Ask me, daddy. I can bring you water, too,’ ” Wazir recalled. “She was the beauty of my house."

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.

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

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 foreigners too.

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.

Wheat field full of bombs yields surprise cooperation for US soldiers, Afghans

ARGHANDAB VALLEY, Afghanistan (AP) — In the end, the American soldiers didn't get to burn down the wheat field. And that was a victory, much as some had anticipated the fiery show. The mine-strewn patch could have become a flash point of resentment for Afghan villagers in the remote Arghandab Valley if the soldiers had gone ahead with their plan. Instead, the painstaking efforts of the U.S. Army's 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, yielded a surprise — the villagers cleared the

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

Five days of peacemaking for an army squadron, then a bomb

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan — The honeymoon at this base in southeastern Afghanistan lasted five days. The first day on base, the squadron commander met with the border police chief. They chatted about security while sitting in overstuffed armchairs, shook hands and toured one of the Americans’ light-armored Stryker vehicles together. The massive Strykers look like tanks, except with wheels instead of tread. Back at the chow hall, soldiers raved about ice cream bars kept somewhat frozen in a tub of ice, praised the hot water in the shower tent and looked forward finally getting “outside the wire.”

Afghan 'war rugs' turn profit on violence

KABUL, Afghanistan – Amid piles of flowery and geometric carpets in an Afghan shop sits a pink rug picturing a Kalashnikov rifle framed by hand grenades. Another shows planes hitting a World Trade Center overlaid by Afghan and American flags. Afghanistan's three decades of fighting and insecurity have spawned a thriving "war rug" business for an international clientele of military buffs and soldiers. The carpets - which have moved from Soviet-era imagery to U.S. and NATO insignia - are a reminder that even war is a
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