July 26th, 2010
03:26 PM ET

Death of a man named 'Popeye'

Bill Harris, deputy director of the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team, speaks at a ceremony honoring "Popeye" at Camp Nathan Smith. A large number of both coalition personnel and local residents attended.

We’d been at Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar City for a matter of hours when a Canadian Public Affairs Officer offered up a story.

Captain Cynthia Larue was not the type of PAO to try to sell you a puff piece to boost the “good news quota,” but rather someone who knew a good tale when she saw one.

And this, to be sure, was one of those. FULL POST

 Kabul traffic
May 20th, 2010
10:33 AM ET

Navigating Kabul's streets

Kabul is  a city clogged with an estimated 4 to 5 million people and traffic to match that human crush. Traffic in Afghanistan's capital city is notoriously awful. CNN's Michael Holmes gives a first-person account (as a passenger, of course) of a commute to work through the Kabul streets.

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Filed under: Kabul • Life and Culture • Photo Spotlight
May 7th, 2010
08:21 AM ET

Female pilot helps Afghan air force take off

[cnn-video url=http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2010/05/05/holmes.afghan.air.force.cnn]

Decades ago, Afghanistan's air force was in full operation. Today, that air force is being rebuilt, with some of the same helicopters and some of the same pilots as well - including the first woman in the Afghan Air Corps and currently the only one.

The only time Capt. Latifa Nabizada left the force was to flee to Pakistan when the Taliban took over in the 1990s - a woman pilot was a prime target for them.

"I wanted to be a pilot since I was a child," she says. "I also, as a woman, felt it was a responsibility to serve my country. So I joined 20 years ago. ... I stayed in because it's the love of my life, and I still feel the responsibility to not give it up." FULL POST

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Filed under: Life and Culture • Troops
May 5th, 2010
10:06 AM ET

Afghanistan's dreams of rock

[cnn-video url=http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2010/05/04/ctw.holmes.afghan.kabul.rock.band.cnn]

Among the many repressive things the Taliban forced on Afghans was the banning of all music for being "sinful." Today, with the Taliban still an influence, and the country still very conservative, music is back … although who knows what the Taliban would make of Kabul Dreams.

They're thought to be their country's only rock band: three guys who share a love of Coldplay, Oasis and the Beatles. FULL POST

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Filed under: Life and Culture
April 29th, 2010
08:21 AM ET

Reminders of a hell for 1,000 men

This place was a cannery, for many years pumping out thousands and thousands of cans of fruit every day. But for one year, during Taliban control of Kandahar, it was something very different. This cavernous, and now eerie storage area became a prison, hell for a 1,000 men.  

Through it all, Popeye was here – he came when he was 13 to work in the cannery, and that was 45 years ago.  Popeye’s not his real name of course — the Canadian soldiers nicknamed him for his work ethic. He still fears the Taliban to the point where he doesn’t want his face shown, but wanted to show us what the prisoners left behind — drawings that paint a vivid picture of their misery.

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Filed under: Taliban
April 28th, 2010
08:14 AM ET

A risky profession in Afghanistan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — There are "press clubs" the world over, from Hong Kong to Sydney, New York to New Delhi — places where journalists can gather, network, maybe grab a drink.

Some are small and convivial, others large and even ostentatious.

But I can’t think of any with armed guards on the roof, and surrounded by concrete blast walls.

Welcome to the Kandahar Press Club.

Afghanistan is a nation full of risky professions, and being a local reporter is right up there near the top of the list. FULL POST

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Filed under: Kandahar • Life and Culture
April 26th, 2010
11:17 AM ET

U.N. keeps Kandahar staffers home after 'threats'

KABUL, Afghanistan — Unspecified "threats" have forced the United Nations in Afghanistan's second biggest city to order its local staff to stay home until further notice.

The order involves more than 200 Afghan employees in Kandahar. Several foreign staffers have been moved to the capital, Kabul.

The action follows what a U.N. source said were "threats against the U.N. operation in Kandahar."

In recent months, violence in the city has escalated, with numerous bombings and assassinations of officials. The uptick comes as U.S. and NATO forces continue operations against the Taliban in Kandahar and surrounding districts. FULL POST

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Filed under: Kandahar • Taliban
April 26th, 2010
11:08 AM ET

Tourism potential and the secret police

KABUL, Afghanistan — When I was in Afghanistan early in 2002, I covered a story on what we all thought was the very essence of optimism — the appointment of a Tourism Minister.

Needless to say, his poisoned chalice of a job didn’t get much traction at the time.

Occasionally since, the idea of a vibrant tourism industry here has re-surfaced — there is still a Tourism Minister — and some “adventure tourists” have indeed tiptoed through the landmines and firefights to discover the undeniable beauty of this country.

There is no debate that Afghanistan has much to tempt travelers — this is a country rich in tourism potential.  

Towering cliffs and deep caverns, stunning lakes (Band-e-Amir has to be seen to be believed), and rugged vistas abound, alongside a culture rich in history.  For those turned off by resort vacationing, or ABC  (“Another Bloody Cathedral) tours, this is a peach of an alternative.

But while the still-optimistic call upon the daring to visit, perhaps the secret police need a lesson or two in how they might welcome such cash and camera-wielding visitors, especially those who might dare snap a photo for later reminiscing. FULL POST

April 23rd, 2010
02:01 PM ET

CNN Reporter witnesses solemn 'ramp ceremony'

When you’re embedded with the military in a place like Afghanistan, you can spend a lot of time waiting.

And so it was last Thursday. We had been embedded with U.S. and Canadian forces inside Kandahar City for a week, and we were awaiting a military flight back to Kabul.

Our transport – a C-130 Hercules – was still two hours away from arriving, so we settled in at the rather basic “departure lounge” at the huge Kandahar Air Force base – known to the military as simply "KAF."

After 45 minutes or so, we noticed soldiers drifting from the waiting area to the outside gate, standing there, looking out.
FULL POST

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Filed under: Behind the Scenes • Kandahar • Troops
April 23rd, 2010
08:45 AM ET

Nations well-represented at air base

CNN's Michael Holmes gives us a tour of the second biggest base in Afghanistan.

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Filed under: Behind the Scenes • Kandahar • Troops