The home video from Marine Lance Cpl. John F. Farias held little back from his parents about the dangers of fighting in Afghanistan, about how the experience was changing him and about how much he missed his family.
"I'm starting to change a lot. I'm kind of forced to grow up here," Farias said in the first video he sent home to New Braunfels, Texas, since deploying in April to southern Afghanistan's volatile Helmand province.
They were among his final words for his family. Farias was one of two Marines killed during combat operations in the province Tuesday, the Department of Defense said. FULL POST
Embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan, CNN's Nick Paton Walsh captures U.S. troops in action as a military outpost in Taliban territory comes under fire Tuesday and Wednesday.
MORE: Photos of the attack
U.S. troops use mortars first on Tuesday, aiming for Taliban dug into the hills. Machine guns rattle through the air. But the incoming fire on U.S. Combat Outpost Pirtle King is very accurate. Then, four massive airstrikes, as U.S. jets strafe the hills. The Taliban falls silent.
The next morning, it starts again - mortars and RPGs pound the base, and for the second time in 24 hours the base is under attack.
On Afghanistan's eastern border, Kunar Valley is vital strategically. If the Americans leave, militants from Pakistan will flow through the valley. If they stay, then every few days, attacks like those on Tuesday and Wednesday happen.
Eight militants and 10 others are dead after a brazen, carefully-orchestrated attack on a Kabul hotel that the Taliban has claimed responsibility for, officials said Wednesday.
Two police officers are among those killed in the attack that began late Tuesday night and carried into Wednesday at the Hotel Inter-Continental, according to the Afghan Interior Ministry.
Check out some of the best images as the attack unfolded: FULL POST
Kunar, Afghanistan — Kunar province, on Afghanistan's eastern border, is as alluring to outsiders as it is unwelcoming.
It's a key transit route for militants from Pakistan. But it's also been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting for U.S. troops in the 10-year war.
In a tiny outpost, Pirtle King, troops test mortars against an insurgency that is rarely seen but frequently attacks from all sides. FULL POST
NATO wants to give Lashkar Gah - the capital of the volatile Helmand province - over to the Afghans to handle security from July onward. But allegations of police brutality, Taliban prevalence and violence abound. Is this really the Afghanistan we want to leave behind. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports.
They are the faces of civilians caught in the crossfire in Afghanistan. Facing internal conflict, the number of people fleeing their homes in Afghanistan has more than doubled compared to this time last year, says Refugees International, an advocacy group for displaced persons.
"In the first five months of 2011, we have more than 91,000 people fleeing their homes. And this is in comparison to last year at the same time period when there was 42,000," Refugees International advocate Lynn Yoshikawa said. FULL POST
Support from the United States, Pakistan and other Afghan allies is crucial to the success of reconciliation talks with the Taliban, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria that aired Sunday.
"The High Council for Peace is authorized by the Afghan people to talk with the Taliban," Karzai said. "These are initial contacts being made, but these contacts would not yield results, would not give us the results that we seek, unless and until the United States and Pakistan, especially, with our other allies, back it with practical application of the means that they have in their disposal."
Find more on Karzai's interview at CNN's Global Public Square
How will U.S. troop withdrawal affect places like Kabul and Kandahar and what is the Taliban's long-term strategy?
CNN senior international correspondent talked with CNN's Anderson Cooper after President Obama's Afghanistan address:
COOPER: [In his address, Obama] said it's time "to focus on nation building here at home." ... Nation building is not officially what the U.S. says they're doing in Afghanistan, but really as part of this counterinsurgency strategy, nation building is what the United States has been doing in Afghanistan for years.
ROBERTSON: It has. If you look at where surges had the best successes, towns in Kandahar and some of the towns in Helmand, it's because there's been security and that's allowed to provide facilities for the mayor's office and for the provincial governor.
Things that they can't afford to do by themselves and get markets back up and running and provide security for street vendors to be able to come out to those markets. It's all these sorts of things that surge has provided for. FULL POST
France will start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, following a timetable similar to the one U.S. President Barack Obama announced, the French president's office said Thursday.
"This withdrawal will be done in consultation with our allies and with the Afghan authorities," the statement from Nicolas Sarkozy's office said.
All French soldiers could be out of Afghanistan by 2013, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet told France Info radio Thursday. France has 3,935 troops in Afghanistan, according to the NATO mission there.
Obama said Wednesday that the U.S. would withdraw 33,000 U.S. troops by September 2012. That will leave just under 70,000 Americans there.
– CNN's Saskya Vandoorne contributed to this report.