December 11th, 2009
04:12 PM ET

Inside the game of buzkashi

Teams of riders on horses compete for a goat or calf carcass in the dangerous but exciting game of buzkashi, known as the national sport in Afghanistan.  The game has been played for centuries, and many believe it dates back more than 2,000 years to the time when Alexander the Great ruled here.

We ran across a game in progress on the outskirts of Kabul on Friday and captured scenes from the competition. See more of the photos

December 11th, 2009
04:05 PM ET

Soldier's death spurs girlfriend's mission to Africa

On his way to Afghanistan, 1st Lt. Tyler Parten made a phone call to the woman he realized he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Parten told Meg Reedy that he loved her, and after his deployment, he wanted to travel with her to Africa, where she planned to become a minister to some of the world’s neediest children.  FULL POST

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Filed under: Troops
December 11th, 2009
03:30 PM ET

The place no Soviet or Taliban could control

Neither the invading Soviets nor the Taliban were able to control the cold, remote Panjshir Valley area in northeast Afghanistan. All up and down the valley, rusty Soviet armor and tanks line the landscape, a testament to the will of the people here to resist outsiders. Which makes it all the more extraordinary that the people here are willing to accept U.S. troops. Shortly after the September 11 attacks, the first CIA teams arrived here and within days, the war against the Taliban would begin. Today, the U.S. military is working with the local Afghans to build schools and install basic electrical projects. Here, the U.S. troops have their own security force - local Mujahedeen fighters who fought the Taliban and Soviets have sworn to protect the Americans.

Watch the report from CNN's Barbara Starr in the Panjshir Valley

December 11th, 2009
03:29 PM ET

Around the Web: Afghanistan and the “just war” theory

During his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on Thursday, President Obama said that war is sometimes “just,” and cited the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan as one such example.

“Obama wanted to remind people, including those in his own party here in the U.S., that the Afghanistan war has a morally legitimate basis and that there are occasions in history where force is necessary,” Fareed Zakaria said about the speech.

Yet, Zakaria warned, defending the war on moral grounds has some pitfalls.

“The great danger of moral certitude is that you get distracted from the practical issue of whether things are working. Are we creating a stable government? Are we being successful against the Taliban and al Qaeda?” he said. “From Woodrow Wilson to Vietnam, the question of whether a military action is morally legitimate can overshadow whether it works.” 

Some other reaction to Obama’s speech in Oslo, Norway: Robert Mackey (The New York Times);  James Fallows (The Atlantic); Thomas Ricks (Foreign Policy); Richard N. Haass (Huffington Post); Abe Greenwald (National Review); Kathleen Parker (The Washington Post); Michael Crowley (The New Republic); Steven Hurst (Associated Press); Howard Fineman (Newsweek).


December 11th, 2009
09:19 AM ET

Report: Arrested Americans planned to go to Afghanistan

Islamabad, Pakistan - Several American men arrested in Pakistan this week amid suspicion that they were plotting terrorist attacks planned to go to Afghanistan, a Pakistani police interrogation report said.

The report, dated Thursday, sheds more light on a case that led Pakistani police to arrest five Americans on Wednesday at a home in Sargodha, a town about 120 miles south of Islamabad.

The report carries details about the men and shows pictures of Internet sites, laptops, mobile phones, an iPod and an external hard drive seized by police.

Read more about the arrests and watch CNN's Arwa Damon talk to the mother of one of the suspects

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Filed under: Daily Developments • Pakistan
December 11th, 2009
08:59 AM ET

Can democracy work in Afghanistan?

Kabul, Afghanistan - In Kabul, the mayor has been convicted of corruption, but continues to work as the city leader.  Abdul Ahad Sahebi was sentenced to four years in prison after being judged guilty of awarding a city construction contract without bidding.  Sahebi says there's no proof.  "It is baseless, without any evidence. without any foundation," he says.

The deputy attorney general Fazil Ahmad Faqeer Yar disagrees. "The court has ordered his dismissal," he says. "So everything he is doing now is illegal."

The matter goes to the heart of NATO's new strategy in Afghanistan - additional troops can bring short-term security but the U.S. says Afghanistan's government needs to crack down on rampant corruption as well.

On paper the Afghan government has executive, legislative and judicial branches, with a political model that resembles those of other democratic states. The country has a constitution that provides equality to all. But even as Hamid Karzai was sworn in for a second term as president in November following a fraud-marred election, the international community was pressuring the leader for reform.

The government is plagued with allegations of corruption, cronyism and warlords – with some questioning whether democracy can ever work in Afghanistan. FULL POST

December 11th, 2009
08:45 AM ET

Scouting out southern Afghanistan

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is traveling with the U.S. military all week in Afghanistan and reports that advance teams are already pre-planning for the additional troops in southern Afghanistan.

Starr talks with CNN Radio's John Lisk on what she's seen so far, the logistics of military transport (and the airport security you still have to go through), the fiercely independent people of the Panjshir Valley and what troops on the ground think about the strategy.