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The Takeaway

More Violent Attacks in Pakistan

Friday, October 16, 2009

Yesterday Pakistan suffered a series of coordinated attacks against police and military compounds which killed 40 people in the country's second-largest city, Lahore. More violence hit the nation this morning when a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb at a mosque next to a police station in the northwest city of Peshawar, killing at least seven people. Over the past two weeks, coordinated attacks have killed more than 150 people across the country.  The violence seems intended to force the government to abandon a planned offensive into militants' stronghold along the Afghan border.

How are the residents of Pakistan reacting to the dramatic uptick in violence? We are joined by Issam Ahmed, reporter for the Christian Science Monitor in Islamabad, Pakistan; and Daniyal Mueenuddin, author of the book of stories “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders.” Mueenuddin lives in southern Punjab in Pakistan, where he owns and runs a farm.

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The Takeaway

What Will It Take to Win in Afghanistan?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New York Times foreign correspondent Dexter Filkins recently returned from Afghanistan, where he talked with Gen. Stanley McChrystal and traveled with American soldiers in one of the country’s most dangerous regions. From his headquarters in Kabul, McChrystal was preparing an analysis for President Obama on what it would now cost – in time, dollars and lives – for the U.S. to win the war. Filkins joins us to report on what it will take for McChrystal’s much-vaunted counterinsurgency approach to work.

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The Takeaway

Finding Emotional Healing on the Battlefield

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A new program called Operation Proper Exit brings Iraq war veterans back to the battlefields that haunt them. The New York Times foreign correspondent, Rod Nordland, followed a group of eight soldiers as they sought emotional closure after their physical wounds had healed.

For more, read Rod Nordland's article, Wounded Soldiers Return to Iraq, Seeking Solace, in today's New York Times.

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The Takeaway

Pakistan Sees Increase in Violence

Thursday, October 15, 2009

BBC correspondent Adam Mynott joins us with a report on increasing violence in Pakistan. Earlier today, eleven people were killed when a car bomb exploded near a police station in the northwestern town of Kohat. Pakistan's second-largest city, Lahore, was recently the site of clashes between police and suspected militants who attacked a federal security building and other police training centers, killing at least 21 people. The latest attacks came days after a militant raid on the army headquarters in Rawalpindi.

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The Takeaway

Report: Increased Sexual Assault in the Military

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

As we continue our conversation on women serving in war, we turn to a new report, “Women Warriors: Supporting She ‘Who Has Borne the Battle,’” that shows sexual assault in the military was up nine percent last year. But many assaults go unreported, and fewer than 10% of assailants are court-martialed. For a look at the culture of sexual assault in the military, we're joined by the report's author, Erin Mulhall, from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and Army Sgt. Cara Hammer, who served in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 and works in veteran services at the IAVA.

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The Takeaway

Obama Considering Afghanistan Options

Monday, October 12, 2009

President Obama will continue to consult with his war advisers this week about how best to move forward in Afghanistan. One question he’s reportedly been asking is, "who is our adversary in Afghanistan?" We speak with Meghan O’Sullivan, former deputy national security advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan in the George W. Bush administration. She was also involved with the political strategy around the surge in Iraq, which brought insurgents into the political process. Also talking with us is Fotini Christia, MIT professor of political science.

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The Takeaway

Taliban Attacks Pakistani Military Headquarters

Monday, October 12, 2009

Militants linked to the Taliban launched a bold attack on Pakistan’s army headquarters this weekend. The Pakistan army took back the building, but at least 41 people were killed. The attack raised questions about Pakistan's ability to keep their security infrastructure – including their nuclear weapons – safe, and whether the U.S. will need to deal directly with the Taliban in order to stabilize the region. We speak to Marvin Weinbaum, a scholar at the Middle East Institute and former State Department analyst on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and BBC Islamabad correspondent Aleem Maqbool.

"What the (Pakistan) army does, is it has a fairly rigorous means of trying to sort out those kinds of people. They don't mind people being religiously oriented; in fact, many of the people in the junior ranks are. But they want their loyalty to be to the military first."
—Marvin Weinbaum, a scholar at the Middle East Institute and former State Department analyst, on how Pakistan's military ensures against their members joining the Taliban

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The Takeaway

A Team Effort: International Forces in Afghanistan

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The United Nations Security Council will vote today to reauthorize the mandate for international forces in Afghanistan. Forty-two countries have troops in Afghanistan in numbers small and large, ranging from Singapore's two soldiers to Britain's 9,000. We're spending the week on the now eight-year-old war in Afghanistan; today we look at the role international forces are playing and how well U.S. forces and international allies are working together. Evelyn Farkas is a senior fellow with the American Security Project, a public policy organization. She was part of a NATO delegation with the International Security Assistance Force that just returned from Afghanistan this week. We also speak to BBC defense and security correspondent Nick Childs in London, and BBC correspondent Tristana Moore in Berlin.

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The Takeaway

The War in Afghanistan: Veterans' Stories

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Today marks the eighth anniversary of the U.S. sending troops to Afghanistan. To help mark the occasion we get the personal stories of three veterans of that war: Joe Sturm, Marco Reininger and Genevieve Chase.

On Oct. 7, 2001, President George W. Bush announced that the U.S. military would be making strikes against al-Qaida targets and Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan. By November 2001, the U.S.-backed military alliance had taken Kabul. By December 7, the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar had fallen. Eight years later we are still there. There are currently 68,000 troops in Afghanistan, and 869 American lives have been lost since the beginning.


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The Takeaway

8 Years in Afghanistan: A Look at Fort Carson, Colo.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

All this week we will be marking eight years since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001. Today we look at the conflict as seen through the eyes of one community whose sacrifices are difficult to fathom. The 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade is based out of Fort Carson, Colo., near Colorado Springs. The combat unit that lost eight men on Saturday after an attack by insurgents in eastern Afghanistan came from Fort Carson. In both Iraq and Afghanistan the post has lost more than 270 soldiers.

We speak to Sgt. Maj. Terrance McWilliams, who was the highest-ranking enlisted man at Fort Carson. He served as Commander there for five-and-a-half years before retiring in 2007. And he spent 31 years in the Army.  He’s now Director of Military Support for the El Pomar Foundation — a private foundation that supports community programs in Colorado. We also speak to Tom Roeder, military correspondent for The Gazette in Colorado Springs.

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The Takeaway

Listener Takeout: Respones to Gay Marine's Story

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Listeners respond to our interview with Tim Smith, a gay marine featured on a billboard saying, “I’m Gay and I protected Your Freedom.” The billboard was erected in Memphis by the Gay and Lesbian Community Center in the run-up to National Coming out Day on October 11.

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The Takeaway

In Memphis, Gay Marine Speaks Out

Monday, October 05, 2009

Less than one month before Tim Smith was supposed to be deployed to Iraq, he was discharged from the Marines under the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy when someone decided to tell. Last month, to protest that policy, he appeared on a billboard sponsored by the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center, next to the statement, “I’m gay and I protected your freedom.” Within days, vandals tore down the billboard. Tim tells us his story, along with Bianca Phillips, a journalist who’s been covering the story for the Memphis Flyer.

"I take great offense at the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy. There are so many wonderful people that I know personally and so many thousands more that have lost their careers, and had their lives drastically effected by a policy that really has no place in the military and in a society that we live in today...I think it's being held in place mainly by a slight few at the very top who still have some misplaced fear and ignorance of a homosexual orientation."
—Tim Smith, discharged gay Marine, on his experience being discharged

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The Takeaway

Neil Sheehan on a US Hero in a Fiery Cold War

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Neil Sheehan, the Pulitzer prize–winning author of "A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam," one of the best documentations of the Vietnam War, has written a new account of the cold war. In "A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon," Sheehan says the decades-long tension between the Soviet Union and the United States was not as glacially still as most people imagine. He says the quiet conflict between the two nations had a fiery heat that most likely would have led to nuclear disaster if it were not for Bernard Schriever, an Air Force general responsible for the creation of the U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile system.

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The Takeaway

Sen. Saxby Chambliss on Rethinking Afghanistan Strategy

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The man in charge of the military mission in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has said that without more troops, the U.S. mission "will likely result in failure." While no official request for more troops has been made, President Obama has made it clear that he is not wild about the idea, even as he convenes a series of White House strategy sessions to discuss U.S. options in Afghanistan. Today, he meets with his full national security team. Whatever the president decides, he'll need to convince Congress that he's pursuing the right course. We talk with Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, about U.S. troop levels and strategy in Afghanistan. 

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The Takeaway

More Troops to Afghanistan?

Monday, September 28, 2009

President Obama will soon face one of the most consequential decisions of his presidency: how to manage the war in Afghanistan. The fight right now is over troop levels. General Stanley McChrystal submitted a troop request to the Pentagon on Friday and spent the Sunday talk shows making the public case for his recommendations. We talk with BBC political correspondent Nick Childs.

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The Takeaway

After Missile Testing, Iran Heads to Negotiations

Monday, September 28, 2009

Launched missiles and secret nuclear facilities: Iran's had a busy few days. Now, they are headed into a week of negotiations with world leaders to explain themselves. Most notably, they are going before the U.N. Security Council on Thursday. We talk with Gary Sick, senior reseach scholar at Columbia University; and Baqer Moin, former head of the Persian service for our partners, the BBC. Sick takes a look at what world leaders want to see from Iran, while Moin considers the situation from the Iranian people's point of view.

"People have said for years that the U.S. played checkers, and Iran plays chess. Maybe even three-dimensional chess. The question has always been: Are we really up to this game? Can we play in that kind of a league where we've got a very clever adversary who is clearly holding some cards and who is willing to play them very adroitly...I personally think we can do this."
—Gary Sick, senior research scholar at Columbia University, on U.S. negotiations with Iran

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The Takeaway

The Continuing Mission in Afghanistan

Monday, September 28, 2009

President Obama has repeatedly tried to explain the mission in Afghanistan, eight years after the September 11th attacks, as an attempt to destroy al-Qaida as a threat. Osama bin Laden and the location of the al-Qaida leadership is still believed to be somewhere in the rugged highlands of northwest Pakistan, not far from Afghanistan. Joining us is Ian Black, Middle East editor for The Guardian newspaper and longtime reporter, editor, author and analyst of Middle East issues and military affairs.

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The Takeaway

President Obama's Push for Nuclear Disarmament

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Yesterday President Obama made nuclear disarmament a central theme of his speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations. Today he chairs a Security Council meeting on the issue. For a look at what the president needs to say and do to convince the world that he means business, we turn to two men who are experts in the realms of diplomacy, foreign policy and nuclear proliferation. Hans Blix served as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from 1981 to 1997 before he was tapped to lead the U.N. committee charged with searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We also speak to Joe Cirincione, president of the anti-nuclear Ploughshares Fund. He also wrote the book "Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons."

"On the Iranian issue, I think the focus in the Western world has been, perhaps, too much on the sanctions. All on the whips, and not so much on the carrots. If you want to get a country to act in a particular direction, the carrots are just as important. It's instructive to compare the attitude taken towards North Korea on the one hand and Iran on the other. North Korea, they [have been] offered diplomatic relations with both the U.S. and Japan if they scrap their nuclear program. They're also offered security guarantees. None of these elements have, so far, been raised publicly for Iran."
--Hans Blix

"Every president since Truman has called for the elimination of these weapons, including Ronald Reagan, who wanted to make them 'impotent and obsolete.' What's different is that Obama is calling for this vision and coupling it with a concrete program on how to get started, step-by-step. He's not doing it unilaterally; he's doing it with the Russians. He says, 'We have to start. The United States and Russia own 96% of all the weapons in the world. The U.S. has about 10,000, Russia has about 12,000 -- we have to take the first steps.' He's right about that, and he's acting on it."
--Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund

Here are highlights of President Obama's address to the United Nations yesterday:

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The Takeaway

Working for the Weekend, Taliban-style

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The BBC's Kate Clark joins us with a look at one aspect of the Taliban that you don't see that often: their day jobs. So-called "weekend Jihadists" are members of Afghan society — civil servants, office workers, even police officers — who spend their days at the office and join the Taliban on the weekends. These weekend warriors are blurring the lines between civilians and Taliban militants and complicating the fight for American troops under orders not to fire on civilians.

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The Takeaway

Largest American Internment Camp in Iraq Shuts Down

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

We speak with Hugh Sykes, BBC correspondent in Baghdad, for a look at the current situation in Iraq. Sykes visited the largest American internment camp in Iraq, Camp Bucca, as it was being dismantled. Many of the detainees from the camp have been released without being charged; the remaining prisoners have been transferred to other camps, although those camps will also soon have to shut down.

"At its peak, Camp Bucca held 22,000 people without charge, without trial. Suspected insurgents, people like that. There are still 8,305 such people at camps, Camps Cropper and Taji, which I think, interestingly, compares to the total number of detainees still interned in Guantanamo Bay ... which is just 295."
—Hugh Sykes, BBC correspondent, on the number of people currently held in American internment camps in Iraq

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