ARRIVING at the end of the deadliest month yet for American forces in Afghanistan and amid allegations of widespread vote-rigging in its recent presidential election, General Stanley McChrystal's review of the Afghan war comes at a gloomy time. In a strategic assessment this week, General McChrystal, the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, has described the situation on the ground as serious. He tempered his gloom by saying that the war is still winnable but argued that a new strategy is needed.
Photos and audio reporting by Vanessa Gezari
Additional photos courtesy of U.S. Army Task Force 2-2
Editing by Megan Rossman of The Washington Post
U.S. soldiers are working with civilian anthropologists in the Human Terrain project to find new ways to win the trust of villagers in Afghanistan. But one Army unit's efforts to refurbish a mosque in a strategically important village are frustrated by Taliban interference.
This past July I was embedded with American soldiers in Afghanistan for a Rolling Stone Magazine article, with the support of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. I was looking at American counterinsurgency and the declining security situation in Afghanistan, but first I had to get the military's approval to even embed with them.
U.S. soldiers are being joined by civilian anthropologists as part of the Human Terrain program, a new strategy to win over villagers.
The frantic run-up to Afghanistan's presidential elections has given way to a bitter anti-climax. Even as results trickle in, they are in danger of being overwhelmed by mounting counter-claims of fraud from the leading candidates, who appear to be increasingly less likely to back down should the final verdict not go their way.
In the days since millions of Afghans braved Taliban threats at the polls, President Hamid Karzai and his leading challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, have waged their own offensive, trading accusations of fraud and impending victory. It may look like politics as usual. But against a volatile backdrop of resurgent militancy and ethnic faultlines, the consequences for Afghanistan's fragile democracy are harder to predict.
KABUL, Afghanistan | Abdullah Abdullah, the leading challenger to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, accused his rival on Saturday of using his power to manipulate the war-torn country's second-ever presidential election.
Mr. Karzai's former foreign minister also said he was in contact with other campaigns about forming a coalition against the incumbent should he not get 50 percent of the votes needed to win outright, a scenario that appears likely. He would not specify with whom he spoke or any further details.
On a bright March day, two members of an Army Human Terrain team in southern Afghanistan joined soldiers from the Second Battalion, Second Regiment of the First Infantry Division, known as Task Force 2-2, in a patrol to Pir Zadeh, the friendliest village in the unit's operating area.
KABUL, Afghanistan | President Hamid Karzai and leading challenger Abdullah Abdullah both claimed to be ahead Friday in Afghanistan's second presidential election, after a vote marred by sporadic violence and low turnout.
In Washington, President Obama congratulated the Afghan people for conducting the presidential election amid violent threats from Taliban militants, but cautioned that more difficult days are ahead.
SHIBERGHAN, Afghanistan | In the months leading up to Afghanistans second presidential election, there was growing optimism the country was shifting away from ethnic patronage toward a newer kind of issues-based politics.
As Afghans went to the polls Thursday amid reports of low voter turnout, sporadic violence and fraud, anecdotal evidence suggested that former warlords still wield heavy-handed influence that could ultimately decide who wins.