December 16th, 2009
12:11 PM ET

Kidnapped journalists released in Afghanistan

LONDON, England (CNN) - Three journalists who work for The Guardian were released Wednesday after being held hostage for six days in northeastern Afghanistan, the British newspaper announced.

Foreign correspondent Ghaith Abdul-Ahad and two Afghan journalists - whom the newspaper did not identify for security reasons - are in "good spirits" and healthy, the newspaper said.

The Guardian did not report the kidnapping before Wednesday.
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Filed under: Daily Developments • Taliban
December 16th, 2009
12:06 PM ET

Around the Web: More private contractors headed to Afghanistan, study says

 Justin Elliot of Talking Points Memo, citing a study by the Congressional Research Service, reports that private contractors will likely play a significant role in the Afghanistan in the near future.

“As President Obama's escalation of the war in Afghanistan unfolds, the number of contractors will likely jump by between 16,000 and 56,000, adding up to a total of 120,000-160,000, according to an updated study from the Congressional Research Service,” Elliott writes.  

Walter Pincus of the Washington Post writes up the study as well, noting that the increased role of private contractors is creating some problems for the Defense Department.

“As the Pentagon contracts out activities that previously were carried out by troops in wartime, it has been forced to struggle with new management challenges,” he writes.”

“The Pentagon's Joint Contracting Command in Afghanistan has increased the size of its acquisition workforce and is adding staff to monitor performance. To enhance oversight, Congress has appropriated $8 million for an electronic system that will track all contract-related information for Iraq and Afghanistan.”

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December 16th, 2009
10:50 AM ET

Inside Afghanistan's largest military postal facility

Bagram, Afghanistan (CNN) - With the holiday season in full swing, the main postal facility at Bagram Air Base is rushing to get care packages and presents to American service members. CNN's Barbara Starr takes us inside.

December 16th, 2009
10:45 AM ET

Mine kills 5 Afghan police; 4 Taliban commanders captured

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) - Five police officers were killed when a mine exploded in western Afghanistan Tuesday night, a government official said.

Among the dead in the blast in Herat province was a police chief from the western part of the district, said Naqibullh Arwin, a spokesman for the governor of the province.

The officers' vehicle rolled over the mine while patrolling, the spokesman said. Police are investigating whether the mine was placed in the area recently. 
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Filed under: Daily Developments • Taliban • Troops
December 16th, 2009
12:52 AM ET

Afghanistan first to use new polio vaccine

On Tuesday, a new polio vaccine was used for the first time in Afghanistan, one of only four countries in which the disease still lingers. (Neighboring Pakistan, Nigeria and India are the others.)

Although it has been 50 years since the United States developed a vaccination for polio, millions of children remain unprotected. Polio is an infectious disease carried by the poliovirus. It causes motor paralysis and atrophy of skeletal muscles, often causing permanent disability and deformity.

Over the three-day immunization campaign, the World Health Organization said it hopes to immunize nearly 3 million children under age 5 in parts of Afghanistan, especially the southern regions. In some areas of the Kandahar and Helmand provinces, more than 60 percent of children have yet to be immunized, according to the WHO. Most of Afghanistan is polio-free, but 31 children have been paralyzed by the disease this year so far.

The new vaccine, given by oral drops, combines the protection from the two remaining types of polio into one dose.

Access to vaccines is one of the most basic, and biggest, problems in fighting the disease. And in some countries, distrust of the government and vaccines hinders vaccinating children against polio.

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Filed under: Life and Culture