Last Exit from Afghanistan

Will peace talks with the Taliban and the prospect of an American withdrawal create a breakthrough or a collapse?

In my meeting with Ghani, he seemed abandoned, like a pilot pulling levers that weren’t connected to anything. He professed gratitude to the United States, but was clearly uneasy with the deal. Recently, he said, he had ordered the release of five thousand Taliban prisoners—“not because I wanted to, because the U.S. pushed me.” He feared a security disaster, as Taliban fighters returned to the streets and American soldiers left the country. “The U.S. can withdraw its troops anytime it wants, but they ought to negotiate with the elected President,” he went on. “They should call me. I’m the elected President.”

She Killed an American in 2012. Why Was She Freed in the Taliban Deal?

The internal debate in Washington over the fate of an Iranian prisoner in Afghanistan illustrates one of the difficult decisions the end of a war brings.

As peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban continue in Qatar, the internal debate in Washington over Ms. Hasan’s fate illustrates one of the difficult decisions that efforts to end a war can bring. To some officials, particularly those inside the F.B.I. and other national security organizations, her release by the Afghan government, under pressure from the Trump administration, was an affront to justice.

‘I Could Just Vanish’: In Kabul, Pocket Notes to Prevent Anonymous Death

As violence engulfs them, some Afghans carry notes with their names, blood types and relatives’ phone numbers in case they are killed or severely wounded.

“This is how we live in Afghanistan,” she added. “It is not just me. I talk to some people who say goodbye to their families every morning because they don’t know what will happen to them during the day.”

Targeted Killings Are Terrorizing Afghans. And No One Is Claiming Them.

Most officials believe the Taliban are behind the attacks on civil leaders, but others fear that factions are using chaos as a cover to settle scores, in an echo of Afghanistan’s past civil war.

KABUL, Afghanistan — A military prosecutor who thought upholding the law was the highest honor, a doctor who inspired her family to study medicine, a journalist who wanted to hold those in power to account and a human-rights activist who sought to combat poverty in her home province: all murdered within weeks by unknown attackers as winter settled over Afghanistan.

How a ‘Distorted Culture’ Led Elite Australian Troops to Kill 39 Helpless Afghans

The findings of a long-awaited military inquiry painted a scathing picture of a cavalier and deceitful ethos among special forces.

Commanders ordered junior soldiers to execute prisoners so they could record their first “kill,” then covered up their actions. Adolescents, farmers and other noncombatants were shot dead in circumstances clearly outside the heat of battle. Superior officers created such a godlike aura around themselves that troops dared not question them, even as 39 Afghans were unlawfully killed.

Why Trump Carried Out His Pentagon Purge

With his Administration coming to a close, the President is still reshaping the government around himself.

The situation in Afghanistan is tenuous. In February, American and Taliban diplomats signed an agreement, by which the United States would withdraw all of its forces once security conditions in Afghanistan were stable. But Trump has been reducing the number of U.S. troops even though the conditions have not yet been met. American officials say that the President has been undercutting his own negotiators and emboldening the Taliban. “The trouble with the Taliban is, they are getting everything for free now,” an American official told me.

The Pardon of a Convicted War Criminal

In 2019, President Trump pardoned Army Lieutenant Clint Lorance, who was serving a 20-year sentence for ordering the murder of two Afghan civilians. To Lorance’s defenders, the act was long overdue. To members of his platoon, it was a gross miscarriage of

When Lorance came down from the tower, he strode into Staff Sergeant Dan Williams’s tent and exclaimed, “It’s funny watching those fuckers dance!” Concerned, Williams woke up the platoon sergeant, who had a loud argument with Lorance. When it was over, Lorance ordered Williams to report to Ghariban that the Strong Point had received potshots from the village; that’s why he’d ordered the marksman to open fire from the tower.

Breaking News: A Stunning and Memorable Account of Reporting from Some of the Most Dangerous Places in the World, by Martin Fletcher. [rating: 4/5]

Martin Fletcher, the NBC News Bureau Chief in Tel Aviv with a penchant for posing on top of destroyed tanks, provides a great look back at his life covering conflict.

War reporters face moral dilemmas all day: Is it reasonable to film a crying woman two feet from the lens? How about a lost child screaming for its parent? Should one film him or take him by the hand? If a man is to be executed and the soundman’s gear suddenly doesn’t work, what do you do? Delay the execution? That’s what the BBC’s David Tyndall did in Biafra in 1970, when he yelled, “Hold it, we haven’t got sound,” and the quivering man about to be killed had to suffer that much longer while the soundman sorted out his gear. Later, Tyndall was mortified by his instinctive response to the dilemma, as was the BBC, which severely reprimanded him. But every move in this job poses a different dilemma, and nobody can be right all the time. In fact, the most critical question is usually not moral in nature but practical: How far down this road can I drive and stay safe?

Fletcher takes us through his experiences beginning with the Yom Kippur War in Israel and then on throughout Africa (Somalia, Rwanda, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), South Africa), Cyprus, Afghanistan, etc. This from Albania, covering the Kosovo war:

Then there was the small matter of the bandits who preyed on travelers, especially foreign journalists flush with cash. One BBC television team hired a small truck and driver. Just as they were approaching the final leg of the journey into the country’s wild and poor northeast, they ran into a group of armed men who stopped their vehicle at gunpoint and demanded money. The producer handed over his shoulder bag with envelopes of cash, and they were allowed to proceed unharmed. The team was shocked, but the producer chuckled and said, “Don’t worry, I’m not dumb, that was just a token in case we got robbed. The real money is in my boot.” The team laughed with relief, whereupon their Albanian driver stopped the car, put a gun to the producer’s head, and stole the rest of the money. Then the driver forced everybody out and drove off with their gear. And he was one of the good guys.

Breaking News: A Stunning and Memorable Account of Reporting from Some of the Most Dangerous Places in the World, by Martin Fletcher. [rating: 4/5]