KABUL — I’m in the back room of a gemstone workshop in Kabul. The owner of the store, Abdul Wasi, pulls off a large, dusty cardboard sheet and points to the pile of stones beneath it.
Raw, uncut, unpolished lapis lazuli, fresh from the northern Afghan province of Badakhshan.
Even covered with dust, the intense blue is visible. Wasi wets his finger and rubs it along the surface of one of the stones. It’s the bluest blue, a vibrant, intense shade of sapphire. Not shiny, but deep and glowing.
There are smaller deposits of lapis lazuli in other parts of the world: Siberia and Chile, for example. But Afghanistan is the mother lode of lapis. FULL POST
The last combat troops may be pulling out of Iraq, but more soldiers are heading to the other war in Afghanistan.
The clock is ticking to stabilize Afghanistan so U.S. troops can meet the president's goal of withdrawing next July.
The success of that mission belongs to units like the one U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Randy Shorter is part of. They are combat infantry, part of the final surge deploying to the region.
As part of my ongoing series “A Soldiers Story,” we'll be following Shorter and his unit as they head into arguably one of the most dangerous parts of the country: Paktika province in southeast Afghanistan, heavy with insurgent attacks. FULL POST