By Mick Krever, CNN
Afghan President Hamid Karzai decided suddenly this weekend not to sign an agreement to keep international troops in his country after their scheduled pull out next year.
His move, former Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday, was the result of a desire to force the selection of a hand-picked successor in presidential elections next April. Abdullah is himself a candidate in that campaign.
“These negotiations between Afghanistan and the United States are being delayed not because of the content of the bilateral security agreement,” Abdullah said, “but primarily because of the personal feelings or personal interests of President Karzai.”
By Mick Krever, CNN
Even without troops in Afghanistan, the international community can and should support women’s rights, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.
“International oversight doesn’t require soldiers on the ground,” Heather Barr, who has spent six years in Kabul, said. “As long as the international community is paying for President Karzai’s army and President Karzai’s police force, the international community has leverage.”
All they need to do, she continued, is focus that leverage on women’s rights, something she claims they have not done so far.
By Mick Krever and Juliet Fuisz, CNN
Afghan politicians are already preparing themselves for a less-progressive country once international forces pull out, a female Afghan parliamentarian told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.
“They are preparing themselves for a new situation, post-2014,” Fawzia Koofi said from Kabul, “and perhaps to welcome Taliban and their views in terms of women’s rights in Afghanistan.”
Koofi knows the struggles of Afghan women firsthand. When she was just a newborn baby, her parents left her out in the baking sun, torn about whether to keep a girl – thankfully, they had a change of heart.
Her experience, in which women are treated as something less than men, is far from rare in Afghanistan.
Take the example of Sahar Gul, forced at the age of 12 to marry an older man. She ended up in the hospital, close to death, after police found her in the cellar of her husband’s home – starved and tortured, her fingernails torn out.
CNN's Christiane Amanpour speaks with CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen about the possibility of a total withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and what the resulting consequences could be.
Diplomatic troubleshooter James Dobbins speaks with CNN's Christiane Amanpour about negotiation with the Taliban.
By Mick Krever, CNN
The Taliban has long been known as an extremist group, but could it become a player in workaday politics?
The group said it hoped to do just that when it opened a political office in the capital of Qatar, Doha. So why come in from the cold?
“Their decision making is kind of mysterious,” Marc Grossman, former U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan,” told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.
But he did have two leading theories. FULL POST
Frederick, Maryland (CNN) – In front of a mirror, Aesha Mohammadzai sees what is possible.
There, in the center of her face, is a nearly complete piece of herself - a piece she's been missing since the day she was mutilated nearly four years ago.
Since August 2010, when her image appeared on the cover of Time magazine, she's been known for what she didn't have. Her Taliban husband and in-laws hacked off her nose and ears as punishment for running away.
Her disfigured face became a symbol for oppressed women in Afghanistan, a reminder of what might come in spades if the Taliban regains control. (FULL STORY)
By Samuel Burke & Juliet Fuisz
When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, there was no music – certainly not in the open.
The Taliban rounded up and destroyed instruments and cassette tapes, string their entrails on branches as a warning to others who dare thinking of listening to or playing music. Only religious chants were permitted; public performances were unthinkable.
That tune has been changing since the Taliban’s fall more than 11 years ago.
Now the Afghan Youth Orchestra is reviving music in the country. This week they made it all the way from Kabul to New York’s esteemed Carnegie Hall.
Thanks to the leadership of their maestro, Afghan musician Ahmad Sarmast, the Afghan Ministry of Education, and money from the United States and its international partners, the student musicians were able to make the adage that “practice, practice, practice” gets you to Carnegie Hall come true.
Sarmast, their teacher and conductor, had fled Afghanistan, and returned only in 2006. He founded the Afghan Youth Orchestra and an institute that now trains 141 students between the ages of 10 and 21. Half of these students are street children and orphans; 41 of them are girls.
In the video above you can see them perform and discuss their passion for music with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
By Mick Krever, CNN
“We’ve made tremendous gains,” Afghan media mogul Saad Mohseni told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “The country doesn’t want to change. The people have grown accustomed to media, to television, to mobile phones.”
Under Taliban rule, there was no television at all – just a radio station playing an endless loop of Islamic prayers and government propaganda.
Now, Tolo TV, which Mohseni launched in 2004, is a staple of Afghan life. It has a 24-hour news channel, but also “Afghan Star,” a singing competition complete with sarcastic judges and text-message voting.
Mhoseni is unapologetic about the impact the media has on Afghan life.
“It facilitates social change,” he said. “It allows society to let off steam.”
By Samuel Burke, CNN
The mother of a little Afghan girl cannot even turn to face her daughter. She looks down in shame as she explains why she must hand the girl over to drug lords.
The father of the girl has done what many Afghan farmers must do to finance their opium farms: borrow money from drug traffickers. But the Afghan government and international forces’ attempt to halt the opium trade has quashed the father’s poppy business, and with it, his ability to pay back the lenders.
The drug lords have taken him hostage to extract a payment.
“I have to give my daughter to release my husband,” the mother explains with the girl at her side. She looks no older than six.