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GlobalPost documents the drawdown of US troops in Afghanistan.

Amid election protests, Afghans wary of ethnic conflict

The protests, so far peaceful, are threatening the legitimacy of what could be Afghanistan’s first democratic transition of power.
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Supporters of Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah shout slogans during a demonstration in Kabul on June 27, 2014. Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah led thousands of demonstrators at a noisy rally through Kabul on June 27, upping the stakes in his protest against alleged election fraud that has triggered a political crisis. (SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)

KABUL, Afghanistan — A dispute over recent elections is raising fears of a return to ethnic infighting in Afghanistan, where supporters of one disgruntled candidate on Friday staged the largest protests yet in a weeklong series of demonstrations.

Chanting, “our vote is our honor” as a call to rally, thousands of supporters of presidential hopeful Abdullah Abdullah marched from early morning to gather in a downtown avenue housing ministries and the president’s palace.


The definitive glossary of modern US military slang

The past 12 years at war in Iraq and Afghanistan have given rise to an expansive (and amazing) new military vocabulary.
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Moon Dust: The earth around a combat outpost is rent by heavy construction vehicles. As the loosened dust dries, it gains the consistency of flour. (Ben Brody/GlobalPost)

KABUL, Afghanistan — It's painful for US soldiers to hear discussions and watch movies about modern wars when the dialogue is full of obsolete slang, like "chopper" and "GI."

Slang changes with the times, and the military's is no different. Soldiers fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have developed an expansive new military vocabulary, taking elements from popular culture as well as the doublespeak of the military industrial complex.


With US-Afghanistan security deal in limbo, girls' education is too

With an agreement on the table that would allow some US soldiers to stay in Afghanistan after 2014, education advocates remain committed to holding, and continuing, the progress they've made in the past 12 years.
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Razia Jan with students at her school in Kabul Province, Afghanistan (Principle Pictures/GlobalPost)

KABUL, Afghanistan — After a four-day meeting in Kabul of more than 2,000 Afghan tribal leaders, President Hamid Karzai rejected the assembly’s recommendation that he promptly sign a long-term security agreement with the United States, pending further negotiations. In the meantime, Afghans from all walks of life and members of the international community wait and worry about the country’s future.

Many fear rampant and well-documented corruption will reach new heights and that Taliban power will again strangle the country after an American troop withdrawal in 2014.

But there is an alternative being embraced by those who have led progress in the country over the past 12 years and have no intention of sitting quietly by and watching it all slip away. Afghanistan’s peaceful majority refuses to make the future an adversary, the unknown the enemy.

Pessimists and determined optimists alike agree that a continued US security presence is key, particularly if Afghanistan is going to continue its current advances in girls’ education and steps toward equality for women. As former US First Lady Laura Bush said in a recent Washington Post op-ed, “these gains are fragile, and there is a real danger that they will be reversed.”


Capitol Hill film screening to highlight 18,000 Iraqi allies in danger

Congressman Alcee L. Hastings aims to remind the US that more than two-thirds of Iraqis who aided in US military operations related to the Iraq War have not been resettled as promised.
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Soldiers and an Iraqi translator with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment speak with a local Iraqi while on patrol on July 13, 2011 in Iskandariya, Iraq. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — A 2008 program to provide 25,000 Special Immigrant Visas to Iraqis who “played critical roles in assisting American forces” since the 2003 invasion of Iraq is nearing its expiration, set for the end of December. Of 25,000 visas alotted, only 7,000 have been awarded.

Those Iraqi citizens, and their loved ones, who have been left behind live in danger of kidnapping, torture and murder by extremist groups that call them "traitors." As of August 2008, according to the Congressional Budget Office, approximately 70,000 Iraqis had worked as translators, engineers, civil society experts and advisors for the US armed forces.

In an effort to show the importance of issuing the remaining 18,000 visas to Iraqis and preventing a similar problem as American forces withdraw from Afghanistan, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.), will be screening documentery filmmaker Beth Murphy’s film The List. The film follows Kirk Johnson, who founded The List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies to help US-affiliated Iraqis in need of special visas navigate challenges with the US refugee resettlement program.

“This is an important time to remember the failures in Iraq as we are now seeing the problem repeat itself in Afghanistan,” Murphy said. “This screening is an opportunity to have conversations with lawmakers and advocates who can work together to do what’s right for those who risked their lives to help the United States.”


US soldiers in Afghanistan adapt to life further from the fight

Combat situations are the bread and butter of infantrymen, but US forces are learning to go without as Afghans take over.

KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan — The glowing hot embers of America's war in Afghanistan, embodied by the military's far-flung combat outposts, are winking out one by one. The few remaining outposts will be turned over to the Afghan military soon, as the US drawdown advances to its uncertain conclusion next year. 


Girls' schools in Afghanistan wonder 'what tomorrow brings'

Filmmaker Beth Murphy returns to Kabul Province, where schools grapple with the impending drawdown of US troops.
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Girls walk home from school in Kabul Province, Afghanistan. (Principle Pictures/Screengrab)

Editor's Note: This story has been revised to further protect the privacy and therefore safety of students and staff at the schools.

KABUL PROVINCE, Afghanistan — On the outskirts of Kabul, the mountainous land is rocky and dry, haunted by decades of war. Although the people here are fortunate to have avoided the violence that has pervaded other parts of the country during this fighting season—a time that stretches across the spring, summer and early fall—it is still a tense time in villages here.


In Afghanistan, 'force protection is the mission'

The measures soldiers take to defend themselves and their equipment have reached a new level as the threat of insider attacks rises.
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A "Guardian Angel" stands outside a meeting between his battalion commander and the provincial police chief in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan. Guardian Angel duty was prompted by the spate of attacks on US soldiers by uniformed members of the Afghan security forces. (Ben Brody/GlobalPost)

KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Attacks on US forces by uniformed Afghan security personnel are now Afghanistan's signature threat, just as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, were in Iraq.

And that new and disquieting reality has me thinking hard about the idea of ‘force protection’ here and how it is changing, or, more precisely, needs to change.

During my first trip to Afghanistan in 2010, it was shocking to see how lax the soldiers there seemed to be in their own force protection.

On a small combat outpost in Kandahar, armed Afghan soldiers mingled freely with Americans day and night. The outpost lacked proper defensive measures to prevent a car bomb attack on the front gate, and some of the guard towers had obstructed views of the surrounding fields.


Back to Afghanistan as America ends its longest war

Correspondent Ben Brody lands at Bagram Airfield, the largest US base in Afghanistan, to begin reporting on the US drawdown of troops.