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Afghanistan

Suzette Grillot and Rebecca Cruise discuss two sides of international education. China has charged an education advocate in Tibet with inciting separatism, and a one-room basement library in Afghanistan is providing books to citizens once ruled by the Taliban.

Then contributor Joshua Landis talks with Jeffrey Mankoff from the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He argues the U.S. tried to outsource solving the Ukraine crisis onto German Chancellor Angela Merkel. They’ll also discuss Russia’s involvement in Syria.

Rebecca Cruise and Suzette Grillot discuss the former military dictator who’s about to take over for Goodluck Jonathan as Nigeria’s new president, and two dozen looted religious artifacts recently returned to Italy.

Then, Rebecca talks with war photographer Ashley Gilbertson. His most recent book, Bedrooms of the Fallen, depicts the homes of men and women who died in Iraq and Afghanistan to remember how they lived, rather than how they died.

Marine Cpl. Christopher G. Scherer, 21, was killed July 21, 2007 in Iraq. He grew up in East Northport, New York. Gilbertson photographed his bedroom almost two years later.
Ashley Gilbertson / Bedrooms of the Fallen, University of Chicago Press

When Ashley Gilbertson was 13 years old, his parents bought him his first camera to photograph himself and his friends skateboarding. A year later, his photos were published in a skateboarding magazine.

“That feeling of seeing something happen, take a photograph of it, and then see it in a magazine … [it] was totally addictive. It’s magical,” said Gilbertson, who grew from photographing skateboarding to become a war photographer.

Jackie Spinner interviews a soldier in Iraq during her time as a Washington Post correspondent.
Provided / Jackie Spinner

In 2003, the Associated Press issued its report on human rights abuses taking place at the U.S.-held Abu Ghraib prison. Jackie Spinner was at the prison a year later to report on the story for The Washington Post when she was nearly kidnapped by Al-Qaeda members.

“It was June 14, 2004. It’s a day I’ll never forget,” Spinner said.

The event inspired the title for her 2006 book about her experiences reporting in Iraq during the war, Tell Them I Didn’t Cry

The U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan ends this month and ending along with it, the NPR presence in Kabul. Reporter Sean Carberry is leaving Kabul just like most of the American troops are.

On Monday, the U.S. and NATO held a formal ceremony to mark the closing of their operational command center. Afghan security forces are supposed to take over January 1, but there will still be around 11,000 U.S. and NATO troops in the country and fighting is expected to continue.

Rebecca Cruise and Suzette Grillot discuss the escalating situation between Israel and Palestine, both the real and potential impact of host nation Brazil’s loss this week in the World Cup.

Then a conversation with national security analyst Linda Robinson about her book One Hundred Victories: Special Ops and the Future of American Warfare. She spent two years in Afghanistan joining U.S. Special Forces on combat missions, while still knowing when to stay out of the way.

Sgt. David Russell / U.S. Army

The so-called “light footprint strategy” has been a hallmark of President Obama’s military engagement strategy as he pulled U.S. troops out of Iraq and winds down the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. That drawdown of massive units of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilian support staff means a stronger reliance on smaller, more elite military groups.

"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.

Afghan authorities on Thursday went ahead and released 65 prisoners from a high-security prison north of Kabul over the strong objections of U.S. military commanders, who say the men are dangerous terrorists who have attacked civilians and soldiers in the past.

As the Los Angeles Times writes:

Joshua Landis and Rebecca Cruise explain how Syria’s civil war is expanding into a region-wide conflict, and what affect two suicide bombings in Russia this week could have on the upcoming Winter Olympics. 

Later, a conversation with longtime Afghanistan observer Andrew Wilder about this year’s scheduled U.S. combat troop withdrawal, and April elections to replace the term-limited Hamid Karzai.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry greets Afghan President Hamid Karzai before a trilateral meeting with Pakistani Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani in Brussels, Belgium on April 24, 2013.
U.S. Department of State / Flickr Creative Commons

In April, voters in Afghanistan head to the polls to elect a successor to the term-limited President Hamid Karzai. The controversial-at-times leader is the only democratically-elected head of state the troubled country has known since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

Andrew Wilder, the Director of Afghanistan and Pakistan Programs at the United States Institute of Peace and a close observer of Afghanistan for nearly 30 years, says it’s very important April’s elections are credible, and produce a legitimate outcome.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel landed in Afghanistan Saturday for a surprise visit with the troops.

Despite the fact that the U.S. and Afghanistan are at odds over a security agreement that allows U.S. troops to remain in the country past 2014, Hagel has no plans to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has refused to sign the security agreement.

The Associated Press reports:

Two days after Egypt's military removed President Mohammed Morsi and replaced him with the country's Supreme Constitutional Court Chief Justice, Suzette Grillot and Joshua Landis talk with incoming University of Oklahoma Middle East scholar and Muslim Brotherhood expert Samer Shehata about what's next for the country.

On Tuesday, militants detonated a suicide car bomb at the gate of a NATO compound in Kabul killing five guards and two civilians. Dana Mohammad-Zadeh says knowing attacks like these will happen is part of life in Afghanistan’s capital city. She earned a degree in Economics and International Studies from the University of Oklahoma in 2012, and now works in the development sector in Kabul.

Reece Lodder / United States Marine Corps

Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry announced on Monday that insurgents had killed nearly 300 local and national police last month, as well as 180 civilians. A day later, militants detonated a suicide car bomb at the gate of a NATO compound in Kabul killing five guards and two civilians.

Dana Mohammad-Zadeh says knowing attacks like these will happen is part of life in Afghanistan’s capital city. She earned a degree in Economics and International Studies from the University of Oklahoma in 2012, and now works in the development sector in Kabul.

This time last week Americans were just starting to learn about the troubled Russian region of Chechnya after authorities released the identities of the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings.

Rebecca Cruise discusses women in combat and the U.S. drone program with NPR's Rachel Martin. Before taking over the host's chair of Weekend Edition Sunday, she reported from both Iraq and Afghanistan, and served as the network's national security correspondent.

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