Let the people lead the way

Afghan girls. Photo by Jake Klonoski

My nerve held until I landed in San Antonio. But with my family a single two-hour flight away after 10 months deployed and two weeks of traveling, I panicked. Racing to an airport gift shop, I searched madly for something to win over my daughter when I arrived home. Though unsure at seeing me, pure joy greeted the stuffed brown horsie. Definitely the best $8.99 I ever spent.  Continue reading 

Building in a Battered Country

Small-scale initiatives may be the best bet

Kabul residents protest the bombing of the Lebanese Taverna last week

At the beginning of this series, I planned a final column for May with the revelation that in all my work with Afghanistan, my proudest service has not been in uniform but as a civilian, working with the American University in Afghanistan (AUAF). The message was to be something like “No one hates war more than those who have lived it. As this war ends for the U.S. military, we can all seek ways to assist a country that remains so badly in need of peace, in the interest of Afghans as well as our own.”  Continue reading 

The Loya Jirga

What happens in Kabul this week will reverberate

Today, Nov. 21, thousands of elected officials, community leaders and respected elders from around Afghanistan will gather at Kabul Polytechnic University, braving IEDs that already targeted the gathering, to discuss and debate the U.S.-Afghan relationship beyond 2014. Five hundred miles away in Herat, U.S. forces wait to find out if our current tours will mark the last of this 13-year mission or if we keep our Roshan phone contact list up-to-date for the replacements coming behind us. Continue reading 

Shutdown’s Distant Impact

U.S. government chaos carries into war zone

The U.S. entered the 13th year of conflict in Afghanistan Oct. 7, and the effort here sits on a knife’s edge. A week ago, the U.N. Security Council authorized the final extension of the international security mandate, which is now set to expire at the end of 2014. Ongoing deliberations between U.S. and Afghan governments will determine the future of our anti-terrorism efforts and training missions here after 2014. Coalition partners await the outcome of the U.S.-Afghan agreement to decide their own commitments. Negotiations with the Taliban continue in fits and starts. And on Oct. Continue reading 

12 Years After

Thoughts on the 9/11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Afghanistan

Few dates generate as much apprehension among coalition forces in Afghanistan as Sept. 11. Twelve years after the searing trauma from which the international mandate in Afghanistan emerged, the approaching anniversary still sharpens one’s focus on potential threats — which feel more imminent than normal: a dust trail approaching from the horizon, a discoloration on the road surface, a motorbike speeding through traffic, a sideways glance and a hand in a pocket.  Continue reading 

Dispatches from Kabul

Leaving family to serve in Afghanistan

Before service members leave for Afghanistan, military regulations demand that they prepare for the unpleasant possibility that they may never come home. The Navy requires that you meet with a military lawyer to fill out a will, designate an executor and assign your survivors benefits. It can seem overdramatic when you are being called back from civilian life, and jokes about who should get a favorite baseball glove or why leaving a car to a sibling would be a disaster help cut the tension. Continue reading