Fort Bragg East: Rebuilding Afghanistan

Across Afghanistan suicide attacks are on the rise and in much of the country U.S.-allied forces confront a revived Taliban. A surprising exception is the eastern province of Khost, a hotbed of insurgent activity and al-Qaida ties since before 9-11 but today an unlikely oasis of hope in a troubled land. With the help of security and aid money from American soldiers based in Khost, Afghans and the Khost governor have managed to bring hope to a region once known as the most volatile area in Afghanistan.

Paved roads now stretch on for miles, markets are bustling, and the smell of raw sewage no longer hangs in the air. Many of the U.S. troops in Khost come from the 82nd Airborne Division, which has deployed to the central Asian country five times, including earlier this year. Some of them are skeptical as to whether Khost will long escape the instability of other Afghan provinces. Others view Khost as a harbinger of hope, proof that forging real alliances between U.S. military forces and Afghan civil authorities can produce lasting peace.

Reporter Kevin Maurer and photographer Andrew Craft traveled in Khost with a Pulitzer Center grant on behalf of their newspaper, the Fayetteville Observer, which serves the Fort Bragg community where the 82nd Airborne Division is based.

Afghanistan: Afghan Police and Army

Andrew and I spent the last few days in the Sabari District in Khowst Province. The paratroopers from the 82nd are living out there, which is part of a new strategy to keep constant pressure on the Taliban by keeping a presence in the districts surrounding Khost city.

Afghanistan: Khost City

Andrew and I spent the afternoon in Khost today interviewing a local journalist and the governor of the province. It was funny because driving into town people would stop and do a double take when they saw us. It is rare, I guess, to see Western faces not in uniform on the streets of Khost.

Afghanistan: Kuwait

Okay... I know all of you have been waiting for us to finally show up in Afghanistan.

It took us a week, but we are finally here. We arrived late yesterday on a C-130 flight from Bagram to Salerno, the base just outside of Khost City on the Afghan-Pakistan border.

For those in the know, waiting for a flight in Kuwait takes monk like patience and a little luck. We had neither...

To continue reading Kevin Maurer and Andrew Craft's blog, click here.