December 29th, 2009
01:26 PM ET

U.S. source: 'Civilians' killed were in bomb-making ring

Kabul, Afghanistan - Nine people killed in a military action targeting militants in eastern Afghanistan apparently were members of an insurgent network, a U.S. military official told CNN on Tuesday.  "The operation was against a network of folks, who had been tracked for a while, involved in producing IEDs as well as some criminal activity," said the official, who asked not to be named.

"As a result of the action, the best info that we have is that nine of those militants in that network were killed. That's based on weapons and IED components at the scene," and it appears the nine were males, the official said.  IED is the acronym for improvised explosive device, which is a roadside bomb. FULL POST

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Filed under: Daily Developments
December 29th, 2009
12:50 PM ET

Behind the scenes at a Kabul news conference

A CNN cameraman details some of his experiences since arriving in Afghanistan in December. Read Part 1 on arriving in Kabul and Part 2 about decorating a Christmas tree in Afghanistan. 

Kabul, Afghanistan - Since my arrival, it has been quiet. Not that there is nothing to do. I had organized the bureau's equipment, fixed new bracket for a back light at our live shot "studio" and attended two press conferences at the presidential palace.

Although the actual press conferences usually last only thirty minutes, it takes more then four hours to attend one. First, there is the short drive. We have to leave early as traffic in Kabul is horrendous. Late arrivals are not accepted. It seems to me that part of the problem with Kabul's traffic stems from road closures. Many streets of Kabul are closed off for traffic. The closures are due to safety precautions of various embassies, NGO's and government buildings. The whole city especially the center looks like it's under permanent internal siege. All significant buildings and many residential houses from outside resemble mini-fortresses. From inside they rather feel like mini prisons. Concrete barriers, guard houses, high walls topped up with barbed wire are just the few visible safety measures. Soldiers, police and private security guards are everywhere ... In the chaotic traffic we slowly inch towards the palace grounds. FULL POST

December 29th, 2009
09:43 AM ET

Female aircrew eager for Afghan mission

(CNN) - Sgt. Stephanie Cole joined Britain's Royal Air Force more than three years ago to fly into battle - and not, as she says, to stay on the ground and "fly a desk."

Soon, she'll finally get to do what she signed up for - working on a helicopter crew in dusty and rugged southern Afghanistan, where British, U.S., other international forces and Afghan soldiers are slugging it out with Taliban militants.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Cole, 24 (on the far left in the photo above).

She will be among four female air crew members deployed to a pool of more than 100 pilots and loadmasters beginning New Year's Day to handle the newly-deployed Merlin helicopters in battle-scarred Helmand province, a haven for insurgents and an illegal drug trade.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Behind the Scenes • Troops
December 28th, 2009
06:02 PM ET

Meet the troops' 92-year-old pen pal


Update: Many readers have asked how they can write to the troops themselves. The Department of Defense offers a page with resourses to help you send letters and messages as well as a form that will allow you to email the troops. Some readers have also chimed in with their favorite methods in the comments.

A few weeks ago, my mom called asking, "Have you heard what Bob Cooper's mom is doing?" Bob Cooper was the baseball coach at my high school. His mom Alleen, whom I'd never met, is a 92-year-old great-grandma. She's also a fiercely independent widow who lives on her own in the Lakewood, California, home where she raised two boys.

"She's writing the troops," my mom says, "during the last two years she's written them more than 2,000 letters." I call Alleen myself and quickly learn this isn't her first foray into writing soldiers. "I started during World War II," she tells me. Now, nearly 70 years later, she's decided "it's time to show my support to the troops of this century." My next phone call is to my boss at CNN who agrees to send a camera crew.

Before we arrive, I've checked into where Alleen's letters are heading – one to a solider so badly burned he's receiving prosthetic ears in a Houston Army hospital, another to a Marine first sergeant who is the father of two girls and preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, and many more to 18, 19 and 20-year-old troops. I wonder what this 92-year-old has to say to all these Marines and soldiers who are worlds away and generations removed. FULL POST

December 28th, 2009
02:25 PM ET

Photo Spotlight: Praying during Ashura

An Afghan woman prays during Ashura in Kabul on Sunday.  Ashura is a major Muslim Holy day to mark the death of Imam Hussein, the 7th century grandson of the prophet Mohammad who was killed in a battle in 680 A.D., as a martyr.


Filed under: Life and Culture • Photo Spotlight
December 27th, 2009
10:11 AM ET

Rocket lands on Afghan ministry grounds

A rocket struck the grounds of the Afghan interior ministry Saturday, but did not cause any casualties, authorities said.

The attack took place Saturday night, said Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the defense ministry. He did not offer additional details.

The ministry is in the heart of the capital city, close to the presidential palace.

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Filed under: Daily Developments
December 27th, 2009
10:08 AM ET

Reunion of soldiers, families at Fort Drum 'the best Christmas present'

Christmas came a day late for the families of nearly 300 soldiers returning to Fort Drum in New York on Saturday from a one-year deployment in Afghanistan.

But it hardly seemed to matter.

Loud cheers filled Magrath Gym as the soldiers marched in just at just after 6 in the morning.

Many families waved signs and flags. One toddler sported a shirt that read, "Welcome home Daddy. I took care of Mommy while you were gone."

Read more about the Christmas reunion

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Filed under: Daily Developments • Troops
December 25th, 2009
03:15 PM ET

Taliban video purportedly shows captured U.S. soldier

The Taliban has released a new video that purportedly shows an American soldier captured in Afghanistan last summer.

Pfc. Bowe Robert Bergdahl, 23, disappeared from his combat outpost in southeastern Paktika province sometime after he finished his guard duty shift on the night of June 29.

The identity of the man in the latest video has not yet been confirmed. But the man, who is wearing U.S. Army combat fatigues stripped of the name tag and rank, identifies himself as Bergdahl.

Read more about the video

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Filed under: Daily Developments • Taliban
December 25th, 2009
11:25 AM ET
December 25th, 2009
11:17 AM ET