Vesak Day 2011

Vesak Day 2011

Commonly called “Budda’s birthday,” Vesak Day is a time for Buddhists worldwide to come together and celebrate the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha. The commemorations range from meditations and quiet prayers to alms giving events to long colorful processions. In Indonesia, such events take place at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument, making it the most visited tourist attraction in the country.  Vesak is observed every year during the full moon occurring in May or June. — Lloyd Young(27 photos total)
Buddhists carry candles while encircling a large Buddha statue during Vesak Day, an annual celebration of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death, at a temple in Nakhon Pathom province on the outskirts of Bangkok May 17. This year marks 2600th anniversary of Buddha’s enlightenment. The image was taken using a long exposure. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)
Buddhists monks attend a ceremony during Vesak Day, an annual celebration of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death, at Wat Dharmmakaya in Pathum Thani province, on the outskirts of Bangkok May 17. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters
Indonesian muslim woman with Buddhist followers release a lantern into the air at the Borobudur temple during Vesak Day, commonly known as ‘Buddha’s birthday’, at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument on May 17 in Magelang, Indonesia. Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument anually, which makes it the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. It is observed during the full moon in May or June, with the ceremony centred at three Buddhist temples by walking from Mendut to Pawon and ending at Borobudur. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
Buddhists believers meditate during a ceremony on Vesak Day, at Wat Dharmmakaya in Pathum Thani province, on the outskirts of Bangkok. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)
Buddhist monks pray at Borobudur temple in Magelang, Indonesia. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
A giant Vesak Day display featuring a seated Buddha during the annual Buddhist festival in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (Lakruwan Wanniatachchi/AFP/Getty Images)
Buddhist followers in meditation at the Borobudur temple during Vesak Day, commonly known as ‘Buddha’s birthday’, at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument on May 17 in Magelang, Indonesia. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
A view of Borobudur temple is illuminated as buddhist monks walked around it during Vesak Day May 17. ( Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
Buddhist followers light candles at the Borobudur temple during Vesak Day. Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument anually, which makes it the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. It is observed during the full moon in May or June. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
Buddhist monks join the procession from Mendut temple to Borobudur temple on Vesak Day, commonly known as ‘Buddha’s birthday’, at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument on May 17 in Magelang, Indonesia. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
Buddhist followers release a lantern into the air at Borobudur temple during Vesak Day. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
Buddhist devotees arrive at a temple to attend a religious ceremony on Vesak day in Colombo May 17. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)
Buddhists carry candles while encircling Wat Dharmmakaya during Vesak Day, an annual celebration of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death in Pathum Thani province, on the outskirts of Bangkok. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)
Buddhist monks wash and sprinkle flowers on the statue of reclining Buddha at the Dhammadipa Arama temple in Malang town in Eastern Java province as they celebrate Vesak Day on May 17. (Aman Rochman/AFP/Getty Images)
A Buddhist monk uses a radio as he gives instructions to others arriving for a prayer during Vesak Day, an annual celebration of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death, at Wat Dharmmakaya in Pathum Thani province, on the outskirts of Bangkok May 17. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)
A resident gives a donation to Buddhists monks ahead of a Vesak Day procession in Magelang, central Java, May 16. Buddhists in Indonesia will celebrate Vesak Day on Tuesday to honor the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. (Dwi Oblo/Reuters)
A Sri Lankan street vendor speaks with a customer as lanterns hang for sale on the eve of Vesak Festival in Colombo on May 16, 2011 as the predominantly Buddhist country awaits the celebration of Vesak on the full moon. Vesak is a thrice-blessed day for Buddhists as it commemorates the birth, enlightenment and the passing away of the Buddha. On Vesak Day, lanterns made from bamboo frames and decoratedd in coloured paper are hung inside every home and illuminated displays decorate the streets. (Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands of Buddhist monks walk among believers during an alms offering ceremony in Bangkok’s shopping district May 8. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)
Buddhist monks attend an alms offering ceremony in Bangkok’s shopping district May 8. Buddhist monks, numbering 12,600, according to organisers, attended the ceremony on Vesak Day, the annual celebration of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. The event was organised to pay homage to the Lord Buddha and to give moral support to the Buddhist monks and novices from the troubled southern provinces of Thailand. This year marks 2600th anniversary of the Buddha’s enlightenment. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)
A Buddhist monk prays at Borobudur temple on Vesak Day, commonly known as ‘Buddha’s birthday’, at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument on May 17. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
Taken with a long exposure Buddhists carry candles while encircling Wat Dharmmakaya during Vesak Day, in Pathum Thani province, on the outskirts of Bangkok May 17. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)
A full moon is seen at Borobudur temple during Vesak Day, commonly known as ‘Buddha’s birthday’, at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument on May 17 in Magelang, Indonesia. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
Devotees scatter flower petals on a Buddha statue on the occasion of Buddha Purnima festival, also know as Vesak Day, in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad May 17. (Amit Dave/Reuters)
A devotee offers prayers at a Buddhist temple on the occasion of Buddha Purnima festival, also know as Vesak Day, in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh May 17. (Ajay Verma/Reuters)
Buddhist monks from Bangladesh parade on a street during a ceremony to mark the religious week coinciding with Vesak, or the Buddha Full Moon Day, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, May 15. (Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press)
Buddhist monks give holy flowers to Budhist members as they join the procession from Mendut temple to Borobudur temple on Vesak Day. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
Buddhist devotees release flying lanterns during Vesak Day celebrations at the ancient Borobudur temple in Magelang town in Central Java province on May 17. The temple believed to be built in the 8th century becomes the center of prayer and devotion on Vesak Day, as Buddhists in the predominantly Muslim Indonesia commemorates the birth, enlightenment and the passing away of the Buddha. (Clara Prima/AFP/Getty Images)

Another Icelandic eruption: Grimsvotn volcano

Another Icelandic eruption: Grimsvotn volcano

Barely a year after a similar eruption in Iceland forced the biggest closure of European airspace since World War II, the eruption of the Grimsvotn volcano, under the Vatnajokull glacier in southeast Iceland on May 21, 2011 has caused hundreds of travel delays. The ash cloud forced U.S. President Barack Obama to shorten a visit to Ireland and has raised some fears of a repeat of last year’s huge travel disruptions across Europe when emissions from Eyjafjalljokull stranded millions of passengers. Although this disruption is said to be stronger than that of Eyiafjalljokull, it is not expected to have the same impact. Take a look back at two Big Picture posts from the 2010 Icelandic volcano eruption: Iceland’s disruptive volcanoand More from Eyiafjallajokull. — Paula Nelson
A plane flies past a smoke plume resulting from the eruption of the Grimsvotn volcano, under the Vatnajokull glacier in southeast Iceland, May 21, 2011. Airlines began canceling flights to Britain because of the ash cloud from the volcano reaching its airspace, although experts expected no repeat of travel chaos from the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull a year ago. (Olafur Sigurjonsson/Reuters)
An image released by the Nasa Earth Observatory, May 24, 2011, captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite at 13:00 UTC, May 22, 2011 shows the ash column billowing from the Grimsvoetn volcano. European air traffic controllers said that 252 flights had been cancelled as a volcanic ash cloud covered Scotland and Northern Ireland. (HO/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama board Air Force One at the airport in Dublin, May 23, 2011 en route to London. Obama was forced to leave Ireland a day ahead of schedule to fly to London as a cloud of ash from an Icelandic volcano drifted towards Britain. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)
A cloud of smoke and ash is seen over the Grimsvoetn volcano in Iceland, May 21, 2011. The cloud rising up from Grimsvoetn as a result of the eruption was seen for the first time around 1900 GMT and in less than an hour it had reached an altitude of 11 kilometres (6.8 miles), according to the Icelandic Meteorological Institute. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
The road near the village of Kirkjubaejarklaustur, May 24, 2011. People living next to the glacier where the Grimsvotn volcano burst into life were most affected, with ash shutting out the daylight and smothering buildings and vehicles. The outburst is the volcano’s most powerful since 1873 and stronger than the Eyjafjallajokull volcano which caused trouble last year. Scientists say this type of ash less easily dispersed but winds have so far been more favorable. (Ingolfur Juliusson/Reuters)
Smoke plumes rise from the Grimsvotn volcano, which lies under the Vatnajokull glacier, about 120 miles, (200 kilometers) east of the capital, Rejkjavik. The volcano began erupting May 21, 2011 for the first time since 2004. Iceland closed its main international airport and canceled domestic flights as the powerful volcanic eruption sent a plume of ash, smoke and steam 12 miles (20 kilometers) into the air. (Jon Gustafsson/Associated Press)
Sheep farmers try to round up a flock as they walk through a cloud of ash pouring out of the erupting Grimsvoetn volcano in Mulakot, May 22, 2011. (Vilhelm Gunnarsson/AFP/Getty Images)
A dead lamb lies covered in ash near Kirkjubaearklaustur 260 km (162 miles) from ReykjavÌk, Iceland, May 24 2011. Experts say that particles in the ash could stall jet engines and sandblast planes’ windows. The ash cloud forced US President Barack Obama to shorten a visit to Ireland and has raised fears of a repeat of huge travel disruptions in Europe last year when emissions from another of Iceland’s volcanos, Eyjafjalljokull, stranded millions of passengers.(Brynjar Gauti/Associated Press)
A man clears the windshield of his car during daylight hours in Kirkjbaejarklaustur, near the Grimsvoetn volcano, May 23, 2011. Activity at Iceland’s erupting volcano has slowed significantly and its flight-halting ash plume has dropped to a quarter of its peak. (Vilheldm Gunnarsson/AFP/Getty Images)
A man walks over a field in the settlement of Vik near the Grimsvoetn volcano, May 23, 2011. (Thorvaldur Kristmundsson/AFP/Getty Images)
A member of a rescue team checks on a farmer near Kirkjubaearklaustur, approx. 260 km from Reykjavik, Iceland, May 23, 2011. A dense cloud of ash from an Icelandic volcano was being blown toward Scotland forcing two airlines to cancel their flights. (Brynjar Gauti/Associated Press)
Ash covers the surface of the ground outside a gas station in Kirkjubaejarklaustur, May 22, 2011. Iceland’s most active volcano erupted hurling a plume of ash and smoke far into the sky, which aviation officials were closely monitoring after another volcano shut European airspace for days last year. Authorities banned flights close to the Grimsvotn volcano. (Ingolfur Juliusson/Reuters)
Farmer and hotel owner Gisli Kjartanson rests at the bar in his empty hotel, Geirland, near Kirkjubaejarklaustur, May 23, 2011. People living next to the glacier where the Grimsvotn volcano burst into life were most affected, with ash shutting out the daylight and smothering buildings and vehicles. The outburst is the volcano’s most powerful since 1873 and stronger than the Eyjafjallajokull volcano which caused havoc last year. (Ingolfur Juliusson/Reuters)
Anna Hardadottir, a farmer from Horgsland, leads a horse, through the ash pouring out of the erupting Grimsvoetn volcano, May 22, 2011. Ash deposits were sprinkled over the capital Reykjavik, some 400 kilometres (250 miles) to the west of the volcano, which has spewed an ash cloud about 20 kilometres into the sky. Less than 24 hours after the eruption began late May 21, experts and authorities in Iceland said the volcanic activity had begun to decline. (Vilhelm Gunnarsson/AFP/Getty Images)

Dogs in the news

Dogs in the news

Reports that a dog accompanied the Navy Seals’ raid on Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan compound created a wave of interest in the animals and their training. Almost 3000 dogs are in use by the American military. Other dogs have been in the news lately as well, with sniffer dogs searching for bombs in sensitive areas in the wake of the raid. Sniffer dogs were also deployed to search for victims of the tornados in the American South. Dogs were in headlines for other reasons recently too, as several hundred were rescued in China, street dogs were being killed in Kosovo and Romania, and luxury dog hotels opened in Europe and North America. A luxury hotel would be a welcome change for those dogs abandoned in Japan in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami and nuclear disaster. And in the middle of all of this, the International Dog Show in Szivasvarad, Hungary showed off pampered purebreds. Collected here are pictures of working dogs, rescued dogs, those suffering the effects of natural disasters, and several others. — Lane Turner
A military working dog outfitted with its own equipment and light heads up the steps of a building in this undated handout image from a company which manufactures a range of specialized gear that includes high-tech canine flak jackets and tactical body armor. The equipment provides real time video feedback and night vision capabilities. (K9 Storm Inc./Handout/Reuters)
U.S. Military Member Mike Forsythe and his dog Cara break the world record for “highest man/dog parachute deployment” by jumping from 30,100 feet in this undated image released by a company which manufactures equipment for military dogs. (K9 Storm Inc./Handout/Reuters)
A U.S. Army soldier with the 10th Special Forces Group and his military working dog jump off the ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during water training over the Gulf of Mexico March 1. (Manuel J. Martinez/U.S. Air Force/Handout/Reuters)
Staff Sgt. Erick Martinez, a military dog handler, carries his dog Argo II on March 4 during an exercise at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. (Allen Stokes/U.S. Air Force/Handout/Reuters)
A Navy SEAL platoon performs a land warfare demonstration at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story in Virginia July 17, 2010. Any dog that participated in the US mission to find Osama bin Laden in Pakistan would have been a member of an elite corps of canines with little relation to common family pets, experts say. (Robert J. Fluegel/AFP/Getty Images)
US Marine Corporal Adrian Luevano from 2nd Marine 8 Batallion Fox Company throws an object to play catch with Sergeant Rush the bomb detection dog at Camp Hansen in Marjah, Afghanistan on May 3. (Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images)
Cesar Millan, better known as the dog whisperer, works with a dog from the Police K-9 unit during a visit to Fort Hood, Texas on April 21. Millan also checks the training and behavior of some of the dogs as he wears a training bite suit. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman/AP)
A policewoman uses a detection dog to check a vehicle as a policeman looks on during a training course at a police academy in Kerbala, Iraq April 27. (Mushtaq Muhammed/Reuters)
A police dog searches in Westminster Abbey in London April 27. Final preparations were being made for the wedding between Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton. (Sang Tan/Pool/Reuters)
A Chilean customs officer inspects a shipment of smuggled cigarettes with a sniffer dog at Valparaiso port April 27. (Eliseo Fernandez/Reuters)
A security officer walks a sniffer dog through the baggage of commuters at a train station in Manila May 3. The Philippine National Police are on full alert to secure all vital installations in the country for possible retaliatory attacks in the wake of the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. (Cheryl Ravelo/Reuters)
A police officer with a sniffer dog checks a passenger’s suitcase at a security control at the Nice-Cote d’Azur airport in Nice, France May 4. (Lionel Cironneau/AP)
An Amtrak police officer and a sniffer dog check an Acela train at Union Station in Washington on May 6, five days after al Qaeda head Osama bin Laden was killed. Intelligence seized from bin Laden’s compound showed his network pondered strikes on US trains on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. (Stephane Jourdain/AFP/Getty Images)
An Indian army dog walks a metal beam during an event at the Army School in Nagrota, India April 26. (Channi Anand/AP)
An Indian army soldier demonstrates the skills of a trained military dog during an event at the Army School in Nagrota, India April 26. (Channi Anand/AP)
A customs officer and his sniffer dog, trained to search for drugs, take part in a competition for dogs representing the Russian Federal Customs Service in Vladivostok April 20. (Yuri Maltsev/Reuters)
Enzo, a search dog used by the special French gendarme search team, is seen in a forest of Roquebrune-sur-Argens, France on April 29 in connection with the discovery last week of the remains of five members of the Dupont de Ligonnes family in Nantes. Police continue to search for the father, Xavier Dupont de Ligonnes, who they suspect of murdering his wife and four children and burying them in the garden in Nantes. Police found his car in a hotel car park in Roquebrune-sur-Argens, some 10 hours’ drive away, after bank withdrawals showed he was in the area. (Eric Gaillard/Reuters)
Kristen Hartness Law with Canine for Disabled Kids demonstrates on February 24 how she uses Bronson, a four-year old smooth coat Collie, for support during a demonstration at Northeastern University in Boston where engineering students watched and measured the service dogs and interviewed their handlers in order to develop new harnesses and equipment for canines. (Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)

Fire survivors Darryl Steen, his daughters Darahne, 9, and Sierra, 16, sit with their pit bull, Diamond, after the dog received the 29th annual National Hero Dog Award from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Los Angeles May 4. When their apartment caught fire in October 2010, the dog barked to wake owner Darryl Steen. He rushed to save his daughters, grabbing Darahne, but he couldn’t get through the smoke and flames to reach Sierra. Diamond not only wiggled through but shielded the teenager beneath a mattress until firefighters rescued them both. Sierra and her father were treated for burns and received skin grafts. Diamond spent six weeks at a veterinary hospital recovering from burns and smoke inhalation. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

A cadaver dog, Chance, searches for a body on May 2 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama, the hardest-hit of six states, is reported to have been battered with at least an EF-4 rated tornado with the death toll across the South rising to over 300 as a result of the storms. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Boston Dynamics’ robot BigDog demonstrates how it can help soldiers carry heavy equipment in the field in this undated photograph. The robot can follow a human being, walking across wet, sandy, rocky terrain, just like a dog would. (Handout)
Dolche, Belle, and Flaf relax in their hotel room at Actuel Dogs on April 19 in Vincennes, France. Actuel Dogs is a five-star luxury hotel for dogs with two single rooms and two suites. With the aim of meeting the dogs’ needs, the hotel offers activities including ‘doggy rando’ and other services such as ‘dog massage’. T he hotel also caters to the needs of people living in small apartments or who don’t have time to walk their dogs. (Franck Prevel/Getty Images)
A dog owner stands by his hound in a “Caniparc” animal toilet, an area designed to prevent dog fouling public streets, in a park in Toulouse, France, on April 13. According to a series of government reports over the past decade, Paris has 200,000 dogs dropping 15 tons of excrement a day that cost the city 9 million euros a year to clean up. (Fabrice Dimier/Bloomberg)
Street dogs wait at a dog shelter in the village of Harilac, Kosovo May 4 after they escaped the fate of fellow dogs, which have become the target of a campaign to cull street dogs in Kosovo. Authorities in Kosovo’s capital of Pristina say 190 street dogs have been shot and killed in the first three weeks of a culling campaign that has been harshly criticized by animal lovers, but officials claim the city is plagued by packs of dogs that often attack people. (Visar Kryeziu/AP)
Dogs rescued by animal lovers are released from their truck at a shelter in Beijing April 16. Animal lovers mobilized by online calls for help blockaded a truck of hundreds of dogs being shipped off for food in a rare, permitted display of social action amid a broad crackdown on most kinds of activism. (Capital Animals Welfare Association/AP)
An animal lover rescues a newborn puppy after a convoy of trucks carrying some 500 dogs to be sold as meat were stopped along a highway in Beijing April 17. There were about 58 million pet dogs in 20 major Chinese cities at the end of 2009, and the figure is rising about 30 percent each year, as pet owners in China spend an estimated two billion USD a year on their animals. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Easy the dog speeds on a park path during the second week of almost daily protests by animal rights activists outside the parliament building in Bucharest, Romania April 19. A parliamentary committee has passed a draft law that says stray dogs can be killed. Romania has long had a problem with stray dogs, with an estimated 30,000 of them in the capital alone. (Vadim Ghirda/AP)
Robert Sanders rows his boat through floodwaters in front of his home with his dog Lucky in Holly Grove, Ark. May 10. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)
An abandoned dog pauses within the exclusion zone, about 6km away from the stricken Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, on April 12 in Futaba Town, Japan. (Athit Perawongmetha/Getty Images)
Veterinarian Riggs Wagenheim examines one of hundreds of dogs that have been brought to the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter in Tuscaloosa on May 5. Hundreds of animals have been searching for their owners following a swarm of tornadoes that swept across the state last week. (Dave Martin/AP)
A dog peers through its enclosure at the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter in Tuscaloosa. A constant flow of people searching for their lost animals following a tornado visit the shelter each day. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)


Battle Company Is Out There

Battle Company Is Out There

Eyes in the Sky: At Camp Blessing, battalion members — led by Lt. Col. Bill Ostlund, far right — watch a monitor showing Capt. Dan Kearney’s troops six miles away.

Published: February 24, 2008

Elizabeth Rubin, a contributing writer, has reported extensively on Afghanistan, most recently in a two-part series for the magazine on the revival of the Taliban.

WE TUMBLED OUT of two Black Hawks onto a shrub-dusted mountainside. It was a windy, cold October evening. A half-moon illuminated the tall pines and peaks. Through night-vision goggles the soldiers and landscape glowed in a blurry green-and-white static. Just across the valley, lights flickered from a few homes nestled in the terraced farmlands of Yaka China, a notorious village in the Korengal River valley in Afghanistan’s northeastern province of Kunar. Yaka China was just a few villages south and around a bend in the river from the Americans’ small mountain outposts, but the area’s reputation among the soldiers was mythic. It was a known safe haven for insurgents. American troops have tended to avoid the place since a nasty fight a year or so earlier. And as Halloween approached, the soldiers I was with, under the command of 26-year-old Capt. Dan Kearney, were predicting their own Yaka China doom.


Lynsey Addario for The New York TimesCompany Man Capt. Dan Kearney (left foreground) with members of his unit at the Korengal Outpost command center in northeastern Afghanistan.

Company Man Capt. Dan Kearney (left foreground) with members of his unit at the Korengal Outpost command center in northeastern Afghanistan.More Photos »

The Korengal Valley is a lonely outpost of regress: most of the valley’s people practice Wahhabism, a more rigid variety of Islam than that followed by most Afghans, and about half of the fighters confronting the U.S. there are homegrown. The rest are Arabs, Pakistanis, Chechens, Uzbeks; the area is close to Pakistan’s frontier regions where Osama bin LadenAyman al-Zawahiri and other Al Qaeda figures are often said to be hiding out. The Korengal fighters are fierce, know the terrain and watch the Americans’ every move. On their hand-held radios, the old jihadis call the Americans “monkeys,” “infidels,” ‘’bastards” and “the kids.” It’s psychological warfare; they know the Americans monitor their radio chatter.

As far as “the kids” are concerned, the insurgents are ghosts — so the soldiers’ tactics often come down to using themselves as bait. The insurgents specialize in ambushes, harassing fire and hit-and-run attacks. NATO’s military advantage in such a war is air power. The soldiers don’t hesitate to call in Big Daddy (who, in today’s military, often flies in with the voice of a female pilot). But while these flying war machines are saviors to the soldiers, they cannot distinguish between insurgents and civilians.

I went to Afghanistan last fall with a question: Why, with all our technology, were we killing so many civilians in air strikes? As of September of last year, according to Human Rights Watch, NATO was causing alarmingly high numbers of civilian deaths — 350 by the coalition, compared with 438 by the insurgents. The sheer tonnage of metal raining down on Afghanistan was mind-boggling: a million pounds between January and September of 2007, compared with half a million in all of 2006.

After a few days, the first question sparked more: Was there a deeper problem in the counterinsurgency campaign? More than 100 American soldiers were killed last year, the highest rate since the invasion. Why were so many more American troops being killed? To find out, I spent much of the fall in the Korengal Valley and elsewhere in Kunar province alongside soldiers who were making life-and-death decisions almost every day — decisions that led to the deaths of soldiers and of civilians.

Subduing the Valley

File:Firebase Phoenix overlooking the Korengal Valley.jpg

View of the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, from Firebase Phoenix

OVER THE LAST two years, the Americans have steadily increased their presence in Kunar province, fanning out to the small platoon-size outposts that have become the signature of the new counterinsurgency doctrine in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The Korengal Outpost, nicknamed the KOP, was built in April 2006 on the site of a former timber mill and motel. The soldiers of Battle Company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team live there in dusty tents and little wooden huts. They now have hot food and a small chow tent with an Internet linkup and a few phones for calling home. But the place was protected by not much more than concertina wire and sentries. Nearly every time I arrived at the KOP our helicopter was greeted by sniper fire or the dushka — a Russian-made antiaircraft gun.

Dan Kearney was essentially lord of the Korengal Valley. A self-described Georgia army brat, he grew up idolizing his warrior dad, Frank Kearney, and wanted to move in his father’s world of covert and overt operations. (His father is now a lieutenant general in Special Operations command.) Kearney often calls himself a dumb jock, playing the crass, loudmouthed tough guy with his soldiers. He had been in Iraq and told me he had gone emotionally dead there with all the dying and killing, and stayed that way until the birth of his son a year ago. His hardest day in Iraq was when a close friend, Rob Shaw, was severely wounded by an improvised explosive device that killed his first sergeant and a bunch of their friends — and the next thing he knew their colonel was asking Kearney to step in for Shaw and lead the company.

But as hard as Iraq was, he said, nothing was as tough as the Korengal. Unlike in Iraq, where the captains and lieutenants could let down their guard in a relatively safe, fortified operating base, swapping stories and ideas, here they had no one to talk to and were almost as vulnerable to enemy fire inside the wire as out. Last summer, insurgents stormed one of the bases in a nearby valley and wounded 16.

Subduing the Korengal Valley
Lynsey Addario for The New York TimesIn the Valley: Capt. Dan Kearney. More Photos »
Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Elders in a village after it was bombed.More Photos »

And unlike every other place I’ve been in Afghanistan — even the Pech River valley, just an hour’s drive away — the Korengal had no Afghan police or district leaders for the Americans to work with. The Afghan government, and Afghans down the valley, seemed to have washed their hands of the Korengalis. As Kearney put it to me one day at the KOP, the Korengal is like a tough Los Angeles neighborhood, “and we’re the L.A.P.D. kicking in the door, arresting guys, demanding information about the gangs, and slowly the people say, ‘No, we don’t know anything, because that guy in the gang, he’s with my sister, and that other guy, he’s my uncle’s cousin.’ Now we’ve angered them for so many years that they’ve decided: ‘I’m gonna stick with the A.C.M.’ ” — anticoalition militants — “ ‘who are my brothers and I’m not gonna rat them out.’ ”

So what exactly was his job out here? To subdue the valley. It’s a task the Marines had tried, and then the soldiers of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division — a task so bloody it seemed to drive the 10th Mountain’s soldiers to a kind of madness. Kearney’s soldiers told me they’d been spooked by the weird behavior of their predecessors last May: near the end of their tour, many would sit alone on the fire base talking to themselves. Privates disobeyed their sergeants, and squad leaders refused to step outside the wire to show the new boys the terrain. No one wanted to be shot in the last days of his tour.

Kearney kept his soldiers on a tight leash at first. Col. John Nicholson, a brigade commander with the 10th Mountain Division, had promised the Afghans he would not bomb their homes. When Kearney and the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team officially took over from the division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team on June 5, they kept that promise. “My guys would tell me they didn’t know which houses they’re shooting from, and I’d tell them they can’t shoot back into the villages,” Kearney recalled. “They hated me.” The insurgents were testing the new captain, he suspected, by deliberately shooting from homes. On July 10, the Korengalis ambushed his soldiers from one house they often used — a three-story mansion on a fertile outcropping, with balconies overlooking the valley, that belonged to Haji Matin, a timber baron turned insurgent leader. It had been the scene of fighting in the past.

When Kearney’s moment of decision came, two of 2nd Platoon’s sergeants, Kevin Rice and Tanner Stichter, had been shot, and the fight was still going on. Kearney could see a woman and child in the house. “We saw people moving weapons around,” Kearney told me. “I tried everything. I fired mortars to the back side to get the kids to run out the front. I shot to the left, to the right. The Apache” — an attack helicopter — “got shot at and left. I kept asking for a bomb drop, but no one wanted to sign off on the collateral damage of dropping a bomb on a house.” Finally, he said, “We shot a javelin and a tow” — both armor-piercing missiles. “I didn’t get shot at from there for two months,” Kearney said. “I ended up killing that woman and that kid.”

Kearney could often sound cold-blooded, like when he’d march into the mess tent in shorts, improvising rap lyrics about killing bad guys. But then he’d switch to counselor, trying to salvage a soldier’s marriage, or he’d joke with a Korengali elder about arranging a marriage between his own infant son and the elder’s daughter to make peace. The performances steeled him against shouldering so much mortality. As he put it, “The only reason anyone’s listening to me in this valley right now is ’cause I’m dropping bombs on them.” Still, he wasn’t going to let himself shoot at houses every time his unit took fire: “I’d just create more people that hate me.”

A Blood Feud

IN LATE 2001, the B-52 symbolized, for many Afghans, liberation from Taliban rule. They wove images of the plane into their carpets. Urban legends sprang up about the B-52’s power, how the planes glided along unscathed, even as the Taliban barraged them with antiaircraft fire. Kabulis spread the story that the B-52s had dropped thousands of leaflets saying, “Hit us if you can!” — and afterward the Taliban didn’t waste their bullets on the B-52s.

But the jets that defeated the Taliban were wiping out innocent families as well. In July 2002, Special Forces in the mountains of Oruzgan thought they were destroying a high-value Taliban target, but instead they rocketed and bombed an engagement party. About 40 Afghans were killed and nearly 100 were wounded.

Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Sgt. Tanner Stichter tends to a wounded Specialist Carl Vandenberge.More Photos »

Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Hostile Fire: U.S. troops carry the body of Staff Sgt. Larry Rougle, who was killed when the insurgents ambushed their squad in the Korengal Valley.More Photos »

Such mistakes have continued, though the causes can change. The insurgents regularly use civilians as shields, children as spotters and women as food suppliers. NATO killing civilians is great propaganda for the Taliban. At the same time, to Afghans with little technological sophistication, the scale and impersonality make the accidents seem intentional. Many are convinced the Americans are deliberately bombing them and even deliberately aiding a Taliban comeback. The reality is that bombs are only as accurate as the intelligence on the ground — and since 9/11, the U.S. and NATO have used air power as a substitute for ground troops.

By now, seven years of air strikes and civilian casualties, humiliating house searches and arbitrary detentions have pushed many families and tribes to revenge. The Americans then see every Afghan in those pockets of recalcitrance as an enemy. If you peel back the layers, however, there’s always a local political story at the root of the killing and dying. That original misunderstanding and grievance fertilizes the land for the Islamists. Whom do you want to side with: your brothers in God’s world or the infidel thieves?

In the case of the Korengal Valley, the story began about a century ago, when the tribesmen now known as Korengalis were kicked out of the province of Nuristan (immediately north of Kunar province) and settled in the Korengal, which was rich with timber forests and farmland. Over time they made an alliance with one branch of the large Safi tribe, which once dominated Kunar politics. But down the road along the Pech River valley, the rest of the Safis opposed the Korengalis.

As the Afghans tell the story, from the moment the Americans arrived in 2001, the Pech Valley timber lords and warlords had their ear. Early on, they led the Americans to drop bombs on the mansion of their biggest rival — Haji Matin. The air strikes killed several members of his family, according to local residents, and the Americans arrested others and sent them to the prison atBagram Air Base. The Pech Valley fighters working alongside the Americans then pillaged the mansion. And that was that. Haji Matin, already deeply religious, became ideological and joined with Abu Ikhlas, a local Arab linked to the foreign jihadis.

By 2007, the Americans understood what happened. Last year, the governor of Nuristan even sat them down with the Korengali elders to try and mediate between the two sides. Nothing came of it. Kearney tried to dig deeper, sending e-mail messages to anthropologists and Afghan experts to get their guidance. He spent hours listening to Haji Zalwar Khan — who acted as the valley’s representative to the Americans and the government — talk about history and grievances. Haji Zalwar, a jihadi veteran of the anti-Soviet fight, bore the valley’s burden almost alone and had the grim demeanor to prove it. Kearney met as many villagers as possible to learn the names of all the elders and their families. But he inherited a blood feud between the Korengalis and the Americans that he hadn’t started, and he was being sucked into its logic.

“Serious P.T.S.D.”

LAST AUTUMN,, after five months of grueling foot patrols up and down the mountains, after fruitless encounters with elders who smiled in the morning and were host to insurgents in the evening and after losing friends to enemy fire, Captain Kearney’s men could relate to the sullen, jittery rage of their predecessors in the 10th Mountain Division. Many wondered what they were doing out there at all.

Kearney refused to entertain that thought. He would tell his visitors, whether generals or reconstruction teams, that his campaign plan was clear, if modest: “It’s World War II Pacific-island hopping, turning one village at a time.” Over five months, he had gained about 400 yards of terrain. When some generals and colonels had flown in for a quick tour, and Kearney was showing them the lay of the land, one officer said to another, as Kearney later recalled it, “I don’t know why we’re even out here.” Another officer jumped in to talk up the logic of the operation. Kearney told me he thought: Sort your stuff out before you come out here. My boys are sucking it up and dying. . . . For besides being lord of the valley, he had another role to play — motivator, disciplinarian and confidant to his soldiers. “It’s like being in charge of a soap opera,” he told me. “I feel like Dr. Phil with guns.”

One full-moon night I was sitting outside a sandbag-reinforced hut with Kearney when a young sergeant stepped out hauling the garbage. He looked around at the illuminated mountains, the dust, the rocks, the garbage bin. The monkeys were screeching. “I hate this country!” he shouted. Then he smiled and walked back into the hut. “He’s on medication,” Kearney said quietly to me.

Then another soldier walked by and shouted, “Hey, I’m with you, sir!” and Kearney said to me, “Prozac. Serious P.T.S.D. from last tour.” Another one popped out of the HQ cursing and muttering. “Medicated,” Kearney said. “Last tour, if you didn’t give him information, he’d burn down your house. He killed so many people. He’s checked out.”

As I went to get some hot chocolate in the dining tent, the peaceful night was shattered by mortars, rockets and machine-gun fire banging and bursting around us. It was a coordinated attack on all the fire bases. It didn’t take long to understand why so many soldiers were taking antidepressants. The soldiers were on a 15-month tour that included just 18 days off. Many of them were “stop-lossed,” meaning their contracts were extended because the army is stretched so thin. You are not allowed to refuse these extensions. And they felt eclipsed by Iraq. As Sgt. Erick Gallardo put it: “We don’t get supplies, assets. We scrounge for everything and live a lot more rugged. But we know the war is here. We got unfinished business.”

For sanity, all they had was the medics’ tent, video games and movies — “Gladiator,” “Conan the Barbarian,” “Dogma,” Monty Python. Down the road in the Pech Valley, soldiers played cricket with Afghan kids and had organized boxing and soccer matches. Lt. Kareem Hernandez, a New Yorker running a base on the Pech River, regularly bantered over dinner with the Afghan police. Neighbors would come by with tips. But here in the Korengal, the soldiers were completely alienated from the local culture. One night while watching a scene from HBO’s “Rome” in which a Roman soldier tells a slave he wants to marry her, a soldier asked which century the story was set in. “First B.C. or A.D.,” said another soldier. The first shook his head: “And they’re still living like this 800 meters outside the wire.”

At the end of the summer, Kearney told his dad, “My boys are gonna go crazy out here.” The army sent a shrink, and Kearney got a wake-up call about his own leadership. He discovered that half his men thought he was playing Russian roulette with their lives and the other half thought he stuck too closely to the rules of engagement. “The moral compass of the army is the P.L. and the C.O.” — the platoon leader and the commanding officer, Kearney told me. “I told every one of my P.L.’s that they have to set that moral standard, that once you slip to the left, you can’t pull your guys back in.”

Operation Rock Avalanche

ON OCT. 19, Kearney and Battle Company were air assaulted into the insurgents’ backyard for a mission that many thought insane. It was called Rock Avalanche and would last about six days. One of its main targets was the village of Yaka China.

Kearney, being the good soldier, tried to pump up his boys with the promise that they would be going after insurgents who had killed their friends and whose grizzled faces were plastered on their bad-guy family-tree wall at the KOP. They would upset the guerrillas’ safe haven and their transit routes from Pakistan. They would persuade the villagers to stop harboring the bad guys by offering an $11 million road project that had just been approved by NATO and Kabul and would be built by the Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team. And they’d complete the “human terrain mapping” that is part of the new counterinsurgency doctrine — what families dominate, who’s married, who’s feuding, are there divisions to be exploited?

It was a lot to ask of young soldiers: play killer, cultural anthropologist, hearts-and-minds winner and then killer again. Which is why, just hours before the mission was to begin, some soldiers were smearing black-and-green war paint on their faces when their sergeant shouted: “Take it off. Now!” Why? They’d frighten the villagers.

It seemed a moot point as Rock Avalanche got under way. Apache gunships were scanning the ridges for insurgents. Other helicopters were dropping off more soldiers. An unmanned drone was whining overhead as it sent infrared video feeds to a large screen back at the battalion’s headquarters, Camp Blessing, six miles north of the KOP.

Almost immediately, high on a mountainside looking down on Yaka China, Kearney had to play God. In a ditch to his left, Jesse Yarnell, a young intelligence officer, along with John, an Afghan interpreter, were intercepting insurgents on their two-way radios saying, “We see them, we’re going to wait.”

“They’re right down there!” said Kevin Caroon as he gazed out of his night vision. Caroon, from Connecticut and a father of two, was an Air Force JTAC — the joint terminal attack controller who talks the combat pilots onto their targets. “See that? Two people moving south 400 meters away from us,” Caroon said, pointing down the mountain face. More insurgents were located nearby.

“Sir, what do you want to do?” Caroon asked Kearney.

“I want them dead,” Kearney said.

“Engage them?”

“Yes. Take ’em out.”

Caroon radioed the pilot his instructions, “On-scene commander’s intent is to engage.” And that was it.

A sudden wail pierced the night sky. It was Slasher, an AC-130 gunship, firing bullets the size of Coke bottles. Flaming shapes ricocheted all around the village. Kearney was in overdrive. The soldiers back at the KOP were radioing in that the drone was tracking 10 men near the tree line. Yarnell was picking up insurgent radio traffic. “They’re talking about getting ready to hit us,” someone said. The pilot could see five men, one entering a house, then, no, some were in the trees, some inside, and then, multiple houses. He wanted confirmation — were all these targets hostile? Did Kearney have any collateral-damage concerns? Cursing, Kearney told them to engage the men outside but not to hit the house. The pilots radioed back that men had just run inside. No doubt there would be a family. Caroon reminded Kearney that Slasher had only enough fuel to stay in position for 10 more minutes.

“What do you want to do, sir?” Caroon asked him.

Kearney radioed his soldiers back at the KOP to contact his boss, Lt. Col. Bill Ostlund. Ostlund, a Nebraska social scientist who could switch effortlessly from aggressive bomber to political negotiator talking family values with Afghan tribal elders, was in the crowded tactical-operations room at Camp Blessing watching the drone’s video feed and getting the same intelligence. He signed off on collateral damage, and Kearney turned to Caroon: “Take out the compound. And anyone that comes out.”

Flaming rockets flashed through the sky. Thunder rumbled and echoed through the valley. Then there was a pause. Slasher asked Caroon whether the insurgents were still talking. Kearney shouted over to Yarnell in his ditch, “You picking anything up?” Nothing. More spitting rockets.

The night seemed incomprehensible and interminable. Slasher departed and Gunmetal — an Apache helicopter — swept in. Radio communication kept breaking down. At one point the crew of Gunmetal, sensing no hostile intent, refused Kearney’s orders to fire. Then suddenly Gunmetal was rocketing at figures scattering for cover. Then Slasher was back in the sky doing more “work.” In the predawn light Bone — the nickname for the B-1 bomber that seemed to be the soldiers’ favorite — winged in and dropped two 2,000-pound bombs above the village. Finally, around dawn, a weary Kearney, succumbing to gallows humor, adrenaline and exhaustion, said: “O.K., I’ve done my killing for the week. I’m ready to go home.”

Kearney estimated that they killed about 20 people, adding: “I’m not gonna lie. Some are probably civilians.”

In the logic of war, the best antidote for the menacing ghostliness of the ambushing enemy is killing and knowing you’ve killed them. The soldiers in the Korengal almost never had that kind of satisfaction. Any insurgents, if they were killed, would be buried fast, and all that was left in their wake were wounded civilians. That morning, after a long night of fighting, was no different. Within an hour or so, Lt. Matt Piosa, an earnest, 24-year-old West Point grad, and his patrol were in Yaka China. They radioed that the village elders were asking to bury their dead. They’d also collected wounded civilians. The tally was bad — 5 killed and 11 wounded, all of them women, girls and boys.

Kearney radioed Camp Blessing the bad news and dropped his head between his knees. Killing women and children was tragedy enough. But civilian casualties are also a political issue. If he didn’t manage to explain his actions to the Yaka China villagers and get them to understand his intentions, he could lose them to the enemy. Meanwhile, Yarnell and his team were intercepting radio messages like: “Be very quiet. Move the things over here. Pray for us.” At least some of the insurgents from the previous night’s fight had survived to fight again. The planes were tracking them hiding along a creek. But after the civilian casualties of the night before, senior commanders were refusing to give Kearney clearance to bomb or rocket them.

The short day was fading. The sun dropped behind the peaks. The cold winds rattled our bones. The soldiers tried to make light of their conviction that they’d be attacked by those insurgents dissolving into the villages. Their fears were realized.

Hearts and Minds

TO TRY TO ACQUIRE allies, Kearney and some of his men flew down the next day to Yaka China. With nowhere else to land, the Black Hawk helicopters descended on the roof of a house not far below the compound that Slasher, the AC-130, had rocketed the night of the 19th. Dust and dried grass whipped across the house and the villagers’ faces. Just to endear themselves even more, the soldiers from Battle Company had to step on harvested corn as they climbed down; it was drying on the second story.

The adversaries faced off in the courtyard as chickens sprinted in and out. On one side were Kearney, Ostlund and Larry LeGree, a naval nuclear engineer and head of the Provincial Reconstruction Team, together with their entourage, including interpreters, all in futuristic high-tech gear. On the other side were the Korengali elders, who looked as if they stepped out of “Lord of the Rings” with their crooked walking sticks, beards dyed red and blue eyes framed by kohl. With no Afghan government out here, the elders are the only channel for communication. The younger men sat on the ground, wrapped in shawls and bold indifference.

Kearney squatted and told the Korengalis that when he came to this region he hoped to walk into Yaka China and find out what the villagers needed. Instead, he found that there were some 50 insurgents in and around the village. He pointed to the evidence — military radio batteries that his men had found, binoculars, rockets, an old pistol, a small pamphlet titled, in Arabic, “How to Kill,” and one in Pashto, “The Concise Book on the Virtues of Jihad” — that had been collected in the general area by Afghan soldiers and Americans. It was not a very incriminating haul, and everyone knew it.

The day before, a U.S. medevac had airlifted out the wounded civilians from the village. Humanitarian assistance was air-dropped in, including concrete for retaining walls, rice and blankets for winter. The provisions were not compensation, Kearney told the elders. “It’s what the government does for their people when there is security here,” he said. He asked them to tell him where in the mountains the insurgents were hiding their supplies. “That way I don’t have to come in here and shoot at you and identify the good guys from the bad guys,” he said.

To keep his bearings amid the hostile faces, Kearney kept appealing to Haji Zalwar Khan, the leading go-between among the valley’s elders. He made his fortune in the timber trade and blamed the Americans for shutting it down. He tried to placate both the Americans and the insurgents. He was not about to side with Kearney in public. “How can I know where you found these things?” he asked, referring to the jihadi items. “In the mountain? The house? How do I know whom they belong to?”

Kearney smiled. He was getting used to the routine between the Americans and the villagers — miscommunication and deception. The encounter felt as much performative, a necessary part of the play, as substantive. And I wondered how Kearney was going to keep his sanity for 10 more months.

Just a week or so earlier, I had been at the KOP when villagers from Aliabad — a mile south of the KOP, and the home village of Haji Zalwar Khan — complained to Kearney that some ordnance had hit a house. Later they sent up the homeowner’s teenage son to wrest compensation from Kearney. As we walked to the KOP’s entrance to meet the boy, a shot rang out, then another. The bullets smacked the dirt in front of us. Kearney shoved me into a shack where an Afghan was cooking bread. A few more shots were fired. It was “One-Shot Freddy,” as the soldiers refer to him, an insurgent shooter everyone had a theory about regarding the vintage of his gun, his identity, his tactics — but neither Kearney’s scouts nor Shadow the drone could ever track him. I accidentally slashed my forearm on a nail in the shack and as I watched the blood pool I thought that if I had to live with Freddy and his ilk for months on end I, too, would see a forked tongue in every villager and start dreaming of revenge.

Kearney was angry. “Taliban shot your house?” he asked the boy from Aliabad. An interpreter translated.

No, said the boy, Americans did.

“What’d we shoot with?”

“I don’t know the weapon, but there’s little holes and two big holes.”

“I didn’t shoot into Aliabad,” said Kearney, adding that if one of his soldiers had, it was because insurgents were firing from the village.

“No one shoots from the village,” said the boy, though everyone knew insurgents had wounded several of Kearney’s soldiers by shooting from the mosque, the cemetery, the school. . . .

The boy changed course, “God knows better than me,” and that sent Kearney on a riff: “Yes. God does and God talks to me and told me they do.” And by the way, hadn’t the boy noticed that the bad guys always start shooting first?

“O.K., then shoot them, not our house,” the boy said.

“Then tell me where the bad guys are,” Kearney said. The boy said he didn’t know. What he knew was that the Americans were always shooting at the village.

This went on for some time. When the boy again protested that no one shoots from his village, Kearney interrupted him. “Aminullah does,” he said. Aminullah was a native of Aliabad and a rising figure in the valley’s insurgency.

The boy smiled.

“You’re smiling because you know I’m right,” Kearney said.

“You’re right,” the boy said. “So shoot the cemetery, not our house.”

Kearney moved closer to him. “Look, if you want help with your house, all you have to do is ask. But don’t accuse us every time something goes wrong.”

The boy laughed and repeated that he didn’t know where the bad guys were.

“It’s crazy, man. They must be ghosts!” Kearney said, laughing.

“Aminullah doesn’t come to Aliabad anymore,” the boy said, perhaps trying to give Kearney a bone.

Kearney leapt at it. “So Aminullah is bad?”


“Ah! Finally! We’re getting somewhere.” Kearney took off his helmet and squeezed his hands together and rocked as he sat on a wall. “What about Mohammad Tali, he’s a good guy isn’t he?” Kearney asked.

Smiling again, the boy looked at the dirt: “No. You already told us he’s a bad guy.”

“Ah!” Kearney said, throwing up his hands. “So you were down there in the village when I gave radios and food. But instead you say I shoot at you all the time?” Kearney swung his legs back and forth. “Hey dude, ask yourself. Why would I bring you radios and food and shoot at you? Does Aminullah? No. What happened that day after I left?” The boy said all he knew was that the villagers went home and “they” started shooting. “Where?” Kearney asked, “from your village?”

“What can I say? The Americans were in my village.”

“Yeah, so I was doing good stuff for you guys and they shot at me. And what I’m trying to say is they could have shot at you again. And if I shoot at your house I’ll help. We’ll fix up that wall. I’m not here to hurt you.”

Everyone was getting restless in the little check post. Kearney tried to lighten up a bit. He asked the boy what he thought about the Americans.

“You build roads and clinics and schools and are here to help,” the boy said.

“Cop out,” Kearney shouted, chuckling. “Easy answer. Hey dude, you can say we’re rotten and messing up your lumber trade.” The boy laughed. Kearney laughed. Pfc. Michael Cunningham, the radio operator, and Sgt. Taylor White, who always manned the check post, both laughed.

“See, I knew it,” Kearney said. “That’s what you really think. Think I want to be here?”

“Yeah,” the boy said. “I think so.”

“Dude. I got a wife and son. I came here to help you out. If you give me as much help as possible I’ll get out of here a hell of a lot faster.”

Kearney told him to enjoy Ramadan, and then shouted, “Where’s my fuzzy friend?” as he looked about for Jericho, the puppy whose ears were chopped off by an Afghan worker: it was pre-emptive preparation for dog fighting — the ears would just give an enemy dog something to grab onto. “I need someone to make me happy. Jericho, I need some love.” Jericho appeared, leaping about. Kearney picked him up. “Hey, what’s up buddy? You’re a good boy. You smell like dirt.”

Kearney turned to Cunningham and White and said, “Well, he’s the first to admit Aminullah’s bad.” And give or take a little unreliable information shared here and there, that was the Korengal routine.

Fight Time

THE DAY AFTER the meeting with the elders of Yaka China, Yarnell and John could hear insurgents trying to pinpoint where Kearney and his men were. The helicopters had moved us to a ridge line, about 8,400 feet high, straddling the Korengal and Shuriak Valleys. The insurgents used the deep caves, boulders and forests as hideouts and transit routes between Pakistan and Afghanistan. We could hear someone who called himself Obeid saying he’d do whatever the Yaka China elders decided — whether to cooperate with the Americans or take revenge. By evening the elders had apparently reached their verdict. It was fight time.

Kearney, too, had reached a verdict. He would fool the insurgents, feigning a troop extraction when the helicopters came for resupply and pushing out his best guys in small “kill teams.” We heard the insurgents say, “We have wolves on them,” meaning spotters. A hoarse, whispering insurgent had eyes on either Sgt. Larry Rougle and his scouts or on Lieutenant Piosa and his rear guard. There was joking that Rougle and Piosa should dance and see which one the whisperer was spying on. Then nothing happened for almost 24 hours.

Rougle — who was called Wildcat — was on his sixth deployment since Sept. 11, 2001. He was with the first group of Rangers in Afghanistan. Even his rough background was something of a legend; he would tell how he grew up in a South Jersey gang, shot a guy, went to “juvie,” and there taught himself Russian (though he was estranged from his Russian father), taught himself politics, history, zoology. At night out in the woods, he’d tell his fellow scouts, “You know penguins are monogamous?”

I hung out with Piosa and his crew. His white skin, red hair and blue eyes belied the months of constant warfare he and his platoon had scraped through. It was a beautiful autumn afternoon and the soldiers were joking around, heating up Meals Ready to Eat, spitting gobs of Copenhagen and then, in a moment, recess was over. The insurgents were on them. Bullets ricocheted all through the woods. A strange silence fell as everyone scrambled for cover. Three of us crouched behind a skinny pine tree. And the silence broke: curses, shouting.

“Where’s it coming from?”

“Where are my guys?”

“Jones, are you seeing things?”

More bullets. Cracks against the tree trunks. Bits of confusing information were coming in on Piosa’s radio.

“They’re comin’ up the low ground at 2-4” — Sergeant Rice’s call sign.

“One W.I.A. hit in the arm.” Then there was panic and screaming.

“The enemy’s overtaken the hill,” bellowed Pvt. Sterling Dunn from further down the trees.

“2-4 is hit” — that was Rice.

“Wildcat is run over the hill” — that was Rougle.

“Get a team to run up there and take that hill. They pushed Wildcat over the hill!” Piosa shouted, trying over and over to reach Rice and Rougle, but getting no answer. The battalion surgeon, Capt. Joel Dean, and a sergeant sprinted up the hill to get to the wounded. As the first Americans neared Rice and Rougle’s positions they were fired on from those same positions. What was going on?

I followed Piosa through the brush toward the ridge. We came upon Rice and Specialist Carl Vandenberge behind some trees. Vandenberge was drenched in blood. The shot to his arm had hit an artery. Rice was shot in the stomach. A soldier was using the heating chemicals from a Meal Ready to Eat to warm Vandenberge and keep him from going into shock.

Piosa moved on to the hill where the men had been overrun. I saw big blue-eyed John Clinard, a sergeant from North Carolina, falling to pieces. He worshiped Rougle. “Sergeant Rougle is dying. It’s my fault. . . . I’m sorry. . . . I tried to get up the hill. . . .” Sergeant Rougle was lying behind him. Someone had already covered him with a blanket. Only the soles of his boots were visible.

“There’s nothing you could do,” Piosa said, grabbing Clinard’s shoulder. “You got to be the man now. You can do it. I need you to get down to Rice and Vandenberge and get them to the medevac.” Clinard wiped his face, seemed to snap to and headed off through the trees.

Two of Rice’s squad mates appeared, eyes dilated. They couldn’t believe they’d seen, up close, the ghosts they’d been fighting for the last five months. “I saw him in the eyes,” Specialist Marc Solowski said. “He looked at me. I shot him.” He and Specialist Michael Jackson had crawled up the hill twice trying to retake it. Each time the insurgents in “manjammies” whipped them back with machine-gun fire. There was blood on the stones around us. Some thought they saw blood trailing down toward the village of Landigal, where they were sure an insurgent had dashed into a cottage.

“We’re not losing this hill again,” Piosa shouted. “This hill is ours!” He wanted bombs to be dropped immediately.

“There’s women praying in that house,” Dunn shouted back.

I was fixating on Rougle’s black hat, lying by the bloodied rock patch where Dunn was sitting, when Sergeant Stichter, Dunn’s senior, appeared, out of breath and shaking, back from tending to Vandenberge. He needed water. The F-15 known as Dude was en route, the Apaches were chasing men and Kearney — who had bolted down the mountain, throwing grenades in caves — was barking orders. Kearney was badly shaken. He adored Rougle, and he’d broken down when he saw his big old buddy Rice bleeding at the landing zone. Rice comforted him and then lumbered to the helicopter, just asking to talk to his wife before they put him under.

The insurgents had run off with some of Rougle, Rice and Vandenberge’s stuff — ammunition, communication equipment, night vision goggles, machine guns. Kearney wanted the equipment back. He wanted to punish the valley. Stichter had his eyes on a guy pacing a rooftop in Landigal and wanted to blow his head off. Specialist Mitchell Raeon, whose uniform was now soaked in Rougle’s blood, had the guy in his scope but couldn’t range that far. “That’s a female,” Dunn said.

Kearney had identified insurgents who’d dashed into a house and wanted to hit them, but Stichter got back word from Camp Blessing saying the target was too close to other houses. Kearney sent back a reminder — you let some guys get away the other night. It was impossible to know for sure, but Kearney believed they were the guys who had killed Rougle, and now, he said, you’re going to let another group get away?

Someone cursed, then said, “They’re all leaving the house.”

Kearney radioed down to one of his lieutenants at an observation post. “Where are they going?” Yarnell heard the insurgents say they were coming back for the rest of the equipment. And then, with no warning, an F-15 dropped a bomb on Landigal, but off target, or so it seemed. Kearney was furious. He was sure headquarters had intentionally missed the house he had wanted hit.

I noticed Raeon was packing and unpacking Rougle’s things. Rougle’s scouts were in disarray, rudderless, and admitting it. Raeon said he kept seeing in his mind Rougle’s face alert and then dead, switching back and forth; he wanted it to stop.

The next day brought another brief firefight, and Rougle’s scouts rallied swiftly. They said they felt him watching and proud. There were more bomb drops and refusals to drop bombs, and then Becky, everyone’s favorite Apache pilot, swept in. Not only did she offer the comforting voice of a woman seeping right into their ears, but Becky was one of the most aggressive shooters. She flew up and down the canyon walls seeking out and rocketing insurgents. We heard them on the radio again boasting about retreating to safety under fire. They talked about the strike in Landigal that they thought might have killed Azizullah — “a real bad guy,” the radio operator told me.

Kearney was watching a crow flying above us. “Taliban are right,” he said. “Like they said yesterday, follow the birds, they follow the Americans. I wish I was made as strong as haj” — their nickname for insurgents. “They were balls to do what they did. And guess what? I’m not gonna lie. They won.”

Killing Together

AS WE WAITED for dusk to get back to the KOP, we all knew the insurgents were nearby, eyes on Kearney, eyes on the soldiers down in the valley. Even nightfall was no comfort because the full moon was floodlighting the Korengal. I returned to the KOP by helicopter with Kearney, while 1st and 2nd Platoons had to make the long trek back on foot. As soon as 1st Platoon set off, the insurgents struck with a devastating L-shaped ambush. All Kearney could do, back at the KOP, was calm his boys on the radio, get in the medevac and invoke the gods of war. The Apaches, Slasher and Bone dropped bombs all night. The soldiers and insurgents were so close that when Slasher, the AC-130, flew in, the pilot coordinated not with the JTAC but with Sgt. Roberto Sandifer, the platoon’s forward observer, who at that moment was under fire watching one of his guys die.

Around midnight, 1st Platoon filed into the KOP, eyes bulging, drenched in sweat, river water and blood. They were hauling the belongings of Mohammad Tali, a high-value target. Specialist Sal Giunta had killed him.

The next day I climbed up to the KOP and found Specialist Giunta, a quiet Iowan lofted into a heroism he didn’t want. His officers were putting him up for a medal of honor. Giunta told me the story of that night, how they’d barely moved 300 yards before they were blasted. Giunta was fourth in the file when it happened, and he jumped into a ditch. He couldn’t figure out why they were getting hit from where Joshua Brennan and baby-faced Franklin Eckrode should have been leading up ahead. He knew it must be bad, but as he leapt up to check he got whacked with a bullet in his armored chest plate. It threw him down. They were taking fire from three sides. He grabbed some grenades: “I couldn’t throw as far as Sergeant Gallardo. We were looking like retards and I decided to run out in front of the grenades.” He found Eckrode with gunshot wounds. “He was down but moving and trying to fix his SAW” — a heavy machine gun — “so I just kept on running up the trail. It was cloudy. I was running and saw dudes. Plural.”

He couldn’t figure out who they were. Then he realized they were hauling Brennan off through the forest. “I started shooting,” he recalled. “I emptied that magazine. They dropped Brennan.” Giunta scrambled up to Brennan. He was a mess. His lower jaw was shot off. “He was still conscious. He was breathing. He was asking for morphine. I said, ‘You’ll get out and tell your hero stories,’ and he was like, ‘I will, I will.’ ”

They were still taking fire. No one was there to help. Hugo Mendoza, their platoon medic, was back in another ditch, calling: “I’m bleeding out. I’m dying.” Giunta saw Brennan’s eyes go back. His breathing was bad. Giunta got Brennan to squeeze his hand. A medic showed up out of the sky. They prepared Brennan to be hoisted to the medevac in a basket. Soon he would be dead.

As the medevacs flew out, Sergeant Sandifer had talked in air cover: Slasher, the AC-130. The pilot was a woman and, Sandifer later told me, “It was so reassuring for us to hear her voice.” She spotted guys hiding and asked if she was clear to engage. “ ‘You’re cleared hot,’ I told her. And we killed two people together.” But, at this point, the killings were no consolation to Sandifer.

As Giunta said, “The richest, most-trained army got beat by dudes in manjammies and A.K.’s.” His voice cracked. He was not just hurting, he was in a rage. And there was nothing for him to do with it but hold back his tears, and bark — at the Afghans for betraying them, at the Army for betraying them. He didn’t run to the front because he was a hero. He ran up to get to Brennan, his friend. “But they” — he meant the military — “just keep asking for more from us.” His contract would be up in 18 days but he had been stop-lossed and couldn’t go home. Brennan himself was supposed to have gotten out in September. He’d been planning to go back to Wisconsin where his dad lived, play his guitar and become a cop.

Sandifer was questioning why they were sticking it out in the Korengal when the people so clearly hated them. He was haunted by Mendoza’s voice calling to him: “I’m bleeding out. I’m dying.” He worried that the Korengal was going to push them off the deep end. In his imagination it had already happened. One day an Afghan visited their fire base, Sandifer told me. “I was staring at him, on the verge of picking up my weapon to shoot him,” he said. “I know right from wrong, but even if I did shoot him everyone at the fire base would have been O.K. We’re all to the point of ‘Lord of the Flies.’ ” And they still had 10 months to go in the Korengal.

I wondered how Kearney was going to win back his own guys, let alone win over the Korengalis. Just before I left, Kearney told me his biggest struggle would be holding his guys in check. “I’ve got too many geeking out, wanting to go off the deep end and kill people,” he said. One of his lieutenants wanted to shoot every Afghan in the face. Kearney shook his head. He wished he could buy 20 goats and let the boys beat and burn them and let loose their rage. He tried to tell them the restraints were a product of their success — that there was an Afghan government with its own rules. “I’m balancing plates on my goddamn nose is what I’m doing,” he said. “All it’s gonna take is for one of these guys to snap.”

But leave the Korengal, as the colonel had suggested, and let some other company deal with it? No way. He’d spent five months learning the valley, getting involved in it; he couldn’t just pull out. At least he would keep the insurgents busy here so the other companies could do hearts and minds unimpeded down along the Pech river. “I lost seven dudes here,” he told me. “It’s too much blood. I don’t want to give this up. This is mine.”

To Be Continued

COLONEL OSTLUND and his officers, and the governor of Kunar and his officials, held an all-day meeting with the Korengali elders. The elders wanted to talk about Rock Avalanche and the devastation that had rained down on them. Colonel Ostlund told them, “If anything should happen to Captain Kearney, pain and misery will knock on many doors in the Korengal.” He gave them 10 days to pick sides — the insurgents or the government. Only then would he consider going ahead with the road project. Their answer came back. They would leave the valley altogether. But they didn’t, and 10 days later insurgents pulled off another ambush of a platoon from the 173rd. The entire patrol went down, either wounded or killed. Kearney told me recently that they had wounded Abu Ikhlas and killed some other bad guys. He said he was pretty sure that Haji Matin, the embittered timber lord, had been killed, too. But the dialogue with the Korengalis was pretty much the same as it had been. Only the winter snows have brought some minor respite to the valley.

Recent scenes from Afghanistan

Recent scenes from Afghanistan

Since he took office in January, President Barack Obama has ordered an additional 21,000 U.S. troops to be deployed to Afghanistan, which will bring the full U.S. deployment there to a total of 60,000 troops, joining 39,000 coalition troops from 43 countries. The U.S. administration plans to impose benchmarks for progress on both Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, who struggle with problems tied to tribal rivalries, illegal drug production and distribution, religious factions, general instability and poverty. Collected here are photographs from the past few months of the situation in Afghanistan and the lives that continue to be affected by it.
An Afghan village seen from above, amidst fields of opium poppy and wheat in Farah Province, Afghanistan on March 17, 2009. U.S. Marines, who expanded into the area last November, are soon to be joined by thousands more American troops as part of an additional 17,000 U.S. forces being sent to the war. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Canadian soldier Pte Chris Kezar from November Company 7th platoon of the NATO-led coalition rests after heavy fighting against insurgents in the Taliban stronghold of Zhari district in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, March 20, 2009. (REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini)
U.S. Army soldiers with the 1-6 Field Artillery division patrol an area where there has been reported Taliban presence February 18, 2009 in Gandalabog, Afghanistan. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A boy from a small shepherd community watches his herd of goats February 27, 2009 in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
U.S. Marine Sgt. Nicholas Bender launches a Raven surveillance drone from Marine base perimeter on March 21, 2009 near the remote village of Baqwa, Afghanistan. Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment use the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to get real time intelligence on Taliban movements. The Marines are operating in Farah Province of southwest Afghanistan and are seeing a spike in Taliban attacks against American forces with the onset of the spring “fighting season.” (John Moore/Getty Images)
A burqa-clad Afghan woman walks in an old bazaar in Kabul March 4, 2009. (REUTERS/Ahmad Masood)
A U.S. Air Force C-17 flying overhead drops parachutes of military supplies – which blew off course, landing on an opium poppy field on March 22, 2009 next to a U.S. Marine base in remote Qalanderabad in southwest Afghanistan. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Opium farmer Haji Abdul Khan shows off damaged poppies to U.S. Marines and their military interpreter on March 22, 2009 near remote Qalanderabad in southwest Afghanistan. The opium poppy field was damaged when a U.S. Air Force airdrop of supplies blew off target, landing on some of Khan’s crops and crushing them. The Marines assured Khan they would pay him for his damaged poppy crop in compensation for the accident. The Taliban often extorts a percentage of the profits from the farmers’ harvest to fund attacks on American forces, according to the military. U.S. Marines, however, have no mandate to destroy poppy crops and, in fact, count on farmers to supply intelligence on Taliban activities. (John Moore/Getty Images)
An Afghan miner works inside the Karkar coal mine in Pul-i-Kumri, about 170km north of Kabul, March 7, 2009. Karkar mine, which hires 280 workers, produces about 100 tons of coal a day. The salary for a miner ranges from $70 to $110 per month. (REUTERS/Ahmad Masood)
A man is questioned by the U.S. Army in a remote valley while searching for Taliban militants who fired rockets at an Army base earlier in the evening February 18, 2009 in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
The body of a suspected Taliban insurgent lies on the back of a police truck after he was killed in a battle outside Ghazni March 26, 2009. Four Taliban insurgents were killed, and seven policemen and two civilians were wounded during a battle just outside Ghazni city, some 200km (125 miles) southwest of Kabul, a spokesman for the provincial governor said. (REUTERS/Shir Ahmad)
A U.S. counter-intelligence Marine and his translator meet with local Afghan villagers on March 23, 2009 in Kirta, in remote southwest Afghanistan. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Sgt. Darin Hendricks with the U.S. Army 1-6 Field Artillery division looks into a small cave while searching for a Taliban rocket launching site in the vicinity of the remote village of Main February 19, 2009 in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Mohammed Amin, an Afghan boy, waits to sell balloons in a field in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Feb. 27, 2009. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
An Afghan woman builds a prosthetic limb at Kabul Orthopedic Organization (KOO) in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Feb. 23, 2009. A doctor there said KOO’s vision as a health care organization is to provide the best health services for disabled – both male and female population – in the region by the establishing a new technology which is based on assessment of the patients. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
A U.S. Marine and an Afghan national policeman pause while on a joint patrol March 26, 2009 near Bakwa in southwestern Afghanistan. Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment patrol daily in the area, often with Afghan police. Local opium poppy and wheat farmers say the presence of the Marines has improved security in the region, formerly controlled by the Taliban, although Taliban insurgents continue to creep into the area at night to plant IEDs on the road. (John Moore/Getty Images)
A U.S. Marine M-4 rifle rests on sandbags at an observation post on March 30, 2009 in Now Zad in Helmand province of southern Afghanistan. Marines from Lima Company of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment there overlook the Taliban frontline. Unlike in many other areas of Afghanistan, where American forces are engaged primarily in counterinsurgency warfare, in Now Zad, both Taliban and American forces hold territory and can see each other across their linear frontline
positions. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Former Taliban militants hold their heavy and light weapons during a ceremony to hand over them to the Afghan government in the city of Herat province west of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, March 10, 2009. Around 40 Taliban militants from Herat province handed their weapons to the Afghan government as part of a peace-reconciliation program. (AP Photo/Fraidoon Pooyaa)
Men work at Taqcha Khana salt mine in Namak Aab district of Takhar province northeast of Kabul March 10, 2009. The mine, from which salt is excavated with basic tools and transported by donkeys, produces more than 23,000 tons of salt per year. (REUTERS/Ahmad Masood)
A soldier from the 2nd Gurkha Regiment of the British army cleans his weapon on Patrol Base Woqab in Musa Qala, Helmand province March 27, 2009. (REUTERS/Omar Sobhani)
A U.S. Marine watches as lightning flashes on the horizon during a search operation for Taliban on March 25, 2009 near the village of Bakwa in remote southwestern Afghanistan. Marines from India Company of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment were searching for insurgents after receiving information that a group of armed men were approaching their base through a hidden ravine. No one was found however. (John Moore/Getty Images)
The casket of U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Geary is carried from a military airplane during a ceremony at Griffiss International Airport, Thursday, March 26, 2009 in Rome, New York as family members, (l-r), cousin Dawn Roux, father Michael Geary, and mother Aggie Geary embrace. The 22-year-old was killed a week earlier when a bomb struck his Humvee in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Observer-Dispatch, Nicole L. Cvetnic)
Veteran soldiers salute through the window of a hearse as the funeral cortege carrying the coffins of British soldiers Corporal Dean John, Corporal Graeme Stiff and Lance Corporal Chris Harkett passes through Wootton Bassett, England, following their return to British soil from Aghanistan Saturday, March 21, 2009. Hundreds of people lined the street as the hearses passed carrying the Union Flag-draped coffins of Royal Engineers Corporal Dean John and Corporal Graeme Stiff, both attached to the 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards, and Lance Corporal Chris Harkett, of 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, who were killed in Afghanistan. (AP Photo / Dominic Lipinski) 
Canadian soldiers carry the coffins of their compatriots at the airfield of the Canadian Joint Task Force Afghanistan in Kandahar March 21, 2009. Roadside bombs killed four Canadian soldiers as well as a local interpreter in Afghanistan on Friday, Canadian Brigadier-General Jonathan Vance said. (REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini)
Family and friends of Trooper Jack Bouthillier, of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, watch his remains being carried to a waiting hearse during a repatriation ceremony at the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton, Ontario, Canada on Monday, March 23, 2009 for four soldiers killed March 20, 2009 in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Peter Redman)
Army Lt. Gen. David Huntoon, Jr., kneels as he presents an American flag to Nicole Bunting, the widow of Army Capt. Brian M. Bunting, 29, of Potomac, Md., Monday, March 16, 2009, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. Bunting, a member of the Individual Ready Reserve, assigned to the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Syracuse, N.Y., died Feb. 24 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
A U.S. Marine CH-53 transport helicopter flies over the rugged terrain of Farah province March 17, 2009 in southwestern Afghanistan. The Marines, who expanded into the area last November, are soon to be joined by thousands more American troops as part of an additional 17,000 U.S. forces being sent to the war. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Canadian soldiers from the NATO-led coalition check a dry river in the Taliban stronghold of Arghandab district in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, March 12, 2009. (REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini)
Canadian door gunners from the NATO-led coalition force take position on a CH-146 Griffon helicopter as they fly over a neighbourhood in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, March 27, 2009. Helicopters are a prime asset to move NATO-led coalition troops and supplies in the war-plagued country because convoys by road are often blown up by improvised explosive devices (IEDs). (REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini)
A Canadian soldier door gunner from NATO-led coalition opens fire with a machine gun from a CH-146 Griffon helicopter as it flies over neighbourhood in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, March 27, 2009. (REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini)
Nasim, a heroin addict for the last 5 years stands inside the abandoned Russian Cultural center used as the heroin gathering point in the capital city February 08, 2009 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Heroin addicts are on the increase in Kabul as the numbers of unemployed increase and the drug continues to be readily available and extremely cheap at only 50 afghany per hit or $1 USD. Afghanistan accounts for more than 90 per cent of the world’s heroin supply. Its annual opium harvest is worth up to $3 billion, or almost half the country’s official gross domestic product. Profits from heroin fund the Taliban, along with corrupt Afghan officials who profit from it. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
An Afghan security officer stands guard as flames rise during a drug burning event on the outskirts of the city in Herat province, west of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Over 2,000 kilograms of narcotics, composed of heroin, opium and hashish, were burnt along with some bottles of alcoholic drinks. (AP Photo/Fraidoon Pooyaa)
Afghan horsemen play Afghanistan’s national sport Buzkashi in the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, March 20, 2009. Buzkashi is the national sport of Afghanistan, which literally translated means “goat grabbing.” In Buzkashi, a headless carcass is placed in the center of a circle and surrounded by the players of two opposing teams. The object of the game is to get control of the carcass and bring it to the scoring area. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
An Afghan man waits with his sick child to be treated by French doctors of the 27th BCA (Bataillon de Chasseurs Alpins) on February 19, 2009 at the Morales-Frazier Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Nijrab, Kapisa province. (JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
A British soldier keeps watch while on foot patrol in a poppy field in Musa Qala, Helmand province, Afghanistan on March 28, 2009. (REUTERS/Omar Sobhani)
U.S. Marines keep watch as fellow Marines search for Taliban arms caches on March 31, 2009 in the abandoned town of Now Zad in Helmand province Afghanistan. Marines from Lima Company of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment have been fighting Taliban insurgents, whose frontline position is just over a mile away from their base. Military commanders say the civilian population fled during heaving fighting between British troops and Taliban fighters several years ago, leaving a ghost town, now a battleground between the U.S. Marines and Taliban. (John Moore/Getty Images)
A set of security lights illuminate the landscape at Bagram Air Base March 2, 2009 in Bagram, Afghanistan. Following U.S. President Barack Obama’s executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, Bagram Air Base is slated for a $60 million expansion, nearly doubling the size of the prison at Bagram. Currently the base north of the Afghan capital Kabul holds over 600 prisoners classified as enemy combatants. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
An Afghan National Policeman keeps watch as the burnt body of a suicide attacker is seen amid the wreckage of a vehicle near the U.S. base in Bagram, north of Kabul, Afghanistan on March 4, 2009. A blast from the explosives in the vehicle was followed seconds later by a suicide bomber on foot who, after running from the vehicle had detonated himself outside the main gate of Bagram air base. Several contractors were injured by the blasts. (REUTERS/Ahmad Masood)
A soldier from Recce Platoon 3rd battalion of the Royal Canadian regiment battle group from the NATO-led coalition shakes the hand of an elderly Afghan man in the Taliban stronghold of Arghandab district in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, March 30, 2009. (REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini)
Afghan girls attend school on February 16, 2009 in the village of Sandarwa in eastern Afghanistan. Women’s education has been severely compromised in Afghanistan as a resurgent Taliban has practiced a policy of intimidation of female students. Women, who make up a significant proportion of Afghanistan’s population, have been killed, burned and threatened for attending school. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Afghan boys toss snowballs at each other as a snowstorm hit Kabul for a second straight day closing the airport on February 13, 2009 in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
Afghan children stand outside their tents living at a crowded refugee camp displaced by the flighting in Helmand February 10, 2009 in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
U.S. Marines patrol through a sand storm on March 22, 2009 in remote Qalanderabad in southwest Afghanistan. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley

Yesterday was Veteran’s Day (or Armistice or Remembrance Day, depending on where you live), a day set aside to honor those who have served in the military. Today, on the day after, it seems appropriate to share some photographs of U.S. soldiers currently in the thick of war in Afghanistan. Getty Images photographer John Moore spent some time recently in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, near the Pakistani border, with Viper Company of the 1-26 Infantry, and brought back these images, documenting what he saw. The final two photographs do not involve Korengal, but are striking examples of these difficult and complex times, and the sacrifice of one American family.
A 50 caliber machine gun points out towards an Afghan village October 23, 2008 at the U.S. Army combat outpost Dallas in the Kunar Province of eastern Afghanistan. OP Dallas is located in the Korengal Valley, site of some of the heaviest combat between American forces and Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. (John Moore/Getty Images)
U.S. Army officers fly back to the unit headquarters following a memorial service for Sgt. John Penich October 23, 2008 at the Korengal Outpost in the Kunar Province of eastern Afghanistan. Penich, from Beach Park, Illinois, was killed by a mortar round while in combat October 16. (John Moore/Getty Images)
U.S. Army SFC Isaac Migli, 26, walks up a mountainside towards an American outpost in the Korengal Valley October 24, 2008 in the Kunar Province of eastern Afghanistan. (John Moore/Getty Images)
An American soldier leaves combat outpost Dallas October 23, 2008 in the Kunar Province of eastern Afghanistan. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Artillerymen await coordinates before firing a 155mm Howitzer on a Taliban position October 22, 2008 from Camp Blessing in the Kunar Province of eastern Afghanistan. Their unit, Charlie Battery, 3rd Battalion of the 321 Field Artillery, has fired more than 5,900 shells since they deployed to Afghanistan less than a year ago, making it the busiest artillery unit in the U.S. Army, according to to military officers. They most often fire in support of Army infantry units fighting Taliban insurgents in the nearby Korengal Valley. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Artillerymen fire a 155mm Howitzer at a Taliban position October 22, 2008 from Camp Blessing in the Kunar Province of eastern Afghanistan. (John Moore/Getty Images)
U.S. Army SFC Isaac Migli, 26, walks up a mountainside towards an American outpost in the Korengal Valley October 24, 2008 in the Kunar Province of eastern Afghanistan. (John Moore/Getty Images)
A monkey rides on the back of a U.S. Army soldier October 23, 2008 at combat outpost Dallas in the Kunar Province of eastern Afghanistan. The monkey went along as a temporary mascot with soldiers who were switching out with comrades who had been in the remote outpost for a week. (John Moore/Getty Images)
U.S. Army SFC. Isaac Migli, 26, walks through a mountaintop outpost in the Korengal Valley October 24, 2008 in the Kunar Province of eastern Afghanistan. (John Moore/Getty Images)
U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Joseph Debose, 26, stands amongst village elders as Afghan and American forces search for weapons October 25, 2008 in the Korengal Valley of Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan. Taliban insurgents enjoy widespread public support in the contested valley. (John Moore/Getty Images
U.S. Army Spc. Clayton Hodge, 22, rests after climbing a mountainside on patrol October 26, 2008 in the Korengal Valley of eastern Afghanistan. He and fellow members of the 1-26 Infantry are involved in some of the heaviest fighting between American forces and Taliban insurgents. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Village elders speak with a U.S. Marine (L), through an interpreter as American and Afghan forces search for weapons October 25, 2008 in the Korengal Valley of Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan. (John Moore/Getty Images)
An Afghan elder from the Korengal Valley speaks during a meeting with U.S. and Afghan military officials October 30, 2008 at the Korengal Outpost in eastern Afghanistan. U.S. and Afghan officers tried to convince the elders to accept a new paved road through the Korengal Valley as part of a large American development project. The elders refused the road, however, saying that they would prohibit anyone in their valley from working on the project. The Taliban is very popular in the Korengal Valley and most of the elders have strong family ties to local Taliban fighters, who oppose the American presence in their area. (John Moore/Getty Images)
U.S. Marines scan for Taliban insurgents as Afghan forces search a house for weapons October 25, 2008 in the Korengal Valley of Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan. (John Moore/Getty Images)
A U.S. Army Chinook transport helicopter sling loads supplies through the Korengal Valley to resupply soldiers in the remote area on October 27, 2008 in Afghanistan. The military spends huge effort and money to fly in supplies to soldiers from the 1-26 Infantry based in the Korengal Valley – the unpaved road into the area is bad and will become more treacherous with the onset of winter. (John Moore/Getty Images)
A U.S. Army Chinook transport helicopter arrives with soldiers and supplies to the Korengal Outpost on October 27, 2008 in the Korengal Vallay, Afghanistan. (John Moore/Getty Images)
A U.S. Army helicopter gunner, his helmet face painted as a skull, awaits soldiers to board his Chinook transport helicopter October 30, 2008 for transport out of the Korengal Valley of eastern Afghanistan. Taliban insurgents had attacked a nearby U.S. Army outpost, and the Americans responded with machine guns, mortars and helicopter gunships. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
U.S. Army Spc. Kevin Yeatman, 21, breathes heavily after climbing a mountaintop overlooking a Taliban position October 28, 2008 in the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan. American forces from 2nd Platoon Viper Company of the 1-26 Infantry occupied the strategic mountaintop, and were shot at by Taliban insurgents. (John Moore/Getty Images
U.S. Army Spc. Kyle Stephenson grimaces from the sound of outgoing shots during a firefight October 28, 2008 in the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan. American forces from 2nd Platoon Viper Company of the 1-26 Infantry had occupied a strategic mountaintop when they were fired upon by Taliban insurgents. (John Moore/Getty Images)
U.S. Army mortars explode on suspected Taliban insurgent positions during a firefight October 28, 2008 in the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan. (John Moore/Getty Images)
U.S. Army Pvt. Jerry Chavez shoots his M-4 rifle on burst during a firefight with Taliban insurgents October 28, 2008 in the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan. American forces from 2nd Platoon Viper Company of the 1-26 Infantry had occupied a strategic mountaintop when they were fired upon by Taliban militia. (John Moore/Getty Images)
A U.S. Army soldier looks to a Taliban position following a firefight October 28, 2008 in the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan. No Americans were injured in the fight and Taliban casualties were unknown. (John Moore/Getty Images)
U.S. Army Spc. Kyle Stephenson, 21, passes through a village during a mission to overlook a Taliban position October 28, 2008 in the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Imam Hashim Raza leads mourners in prayer during a funeral for Mohsin Naqvi at al-Fatima Islamic Center in Colonie, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 22, 2008. Naqvi was a Muslim, a native of Pakistan (he emigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was 8 years old and became a citizen at 16) and a U.S. Army officer. He was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol last week in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Hassan Naqvi mourns beside the coffin of his brother Mohsin Naqvi before a funeral at al-Fatima Islamic Center in Colonie, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 22, 2008. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Stay away from energy drinks, doctors say

Stay away from energy drinks, doctors say


By Frederik Joelving – Mon May 30, 4:12 am ET

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – In a new report, a large group of American doctors urge kids and teens to avoid energy drinks and only consume sports drinks in limited amount.

The recommendations come in the wake of a national debate over energy drinks, which experts fear may have side effects.

“Children never need energy drinks,” said Dr. Holly Benjamin, of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who worked on the new report. “They contain caffeine and other stimulant substances that aren’t nutritional, so you don’t need them.”

And kids might be more vulnerable to the contents of energy drinks than grownups.

“If you drink them on a regular basis, it stresses the body,” Benjamin told Reuters Health. “You don’t really want to stress the body of a person that’s growing.”

For the new recommendations, published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers went through earlier studies and reports on both energy drinks and sports drinks, which don’t contain any stimulants.

They note that energy drinks contain a jumble of ingredients — including vitamins and herbal extracts — with possible side effects that aren’t always well understood.

While there aren’t many documented cases of harm directly linked to the beverages, stimulants can disturb the heart’s rhythm and may lead to seizures in very rare cases, Benjamin said.

Recently, she saw a 15-year-old boy with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder who came into the hospital with a seizure after having drunk two 24-ounce bottles of Mountain Dew, a soft drink that contains caffeine.

The boy was already taking stimulant ADHD medication, and the extra caffeine in principle might have pushed him over the edge, according to Benjamin.

“You just never know,” she said. “It’s definitely a concern.”

Earlier this year, Pediatrics published another review of the literature on energy drinks.

In it, Florida pediatricians described cases of seizures, delusions, heart problems and kidney or liver damage in people who had drunk one or more non-alcoholic energy drinks — including brands like Red Bull, Spike Shooter and Redline.

While they acknowledged that such cases are very rare, and can’t be conclusively linked to the drinks, they urged caution, especially in kids with medical conditions (see Reuters story of February 14, 2011).

U.S. sales of non-alcoholic energy drinks are expected to hit $9 billion this year, with children and young adults accounting for half the market.

Manufacturers claim their products will enhance both mental and physical performance, and were quick to downplay the February report.

“The effects of caffeine are well-known and as an 8.4 oz can of Red Bull contains about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee (80 mg), it should be treated accordingly,” Red Bull said in an emailed statement to Reuters Health.

Benjamin said that for most kids, water is the best thing to quench their thirst. If they happen to be young athletes training hard, a sports drink might be helpful, too, because it contains sugar.

But for kids who lead less-active lives, sports and energy drinks might just serve to pile on extra pounds, fueling the national obesity epidemic.

While she acknowledged that more research is needed, Benjamin said the safest thing to drink is water.

SOURCE: Pediatrics, online May 30, 2011.

Beneath Jerusalem, an underground city takes shape

Beneath Jerusalem, an underground city takes shape


In this May 17, 2011 photo, a view of Zedekiah's ...

View of Zedekiah’s Cave

In this May 17, 2011 photo, a view of Zedekiah’s Cave is seen in Jerusalem’s Old City. Underneath the stone buildings and crowded alleys of old Jerusalem, hundreds of people are moving at any given moment through tunnels, vaulted medieval chambers and Roman sewers in a rapidly expanding subterranean city invisible from the streets above.

 (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

By MATTI FRIEDMAN, Associated Press – Mon May 30, 12:09 pm ET

JERUSALEM – Underneath the crowded alleys and holy sites of old Jerusalem, hundreds of people are snaking at any given moment through tunnels, vaulted medieval chambers and Roman sewers in a rapidly expanding subterranean city invisible from the streets above.

At street level, the walled Old City is an energetic and fractious enclave with a physical landscape that is predominantly Islamic and a population that is mainly Arab.

Underground Jerusalem is different: Here the noise recedes, the fierce Middle Eastern sun disappears, and light comes from fluorescent bulbs. There is a smell of earth and mildew, and the geography recalls a Jewish city that existed 2,000 years ago.

In this May 17, 2011 photo, underground water ...

Underground water flows

In this May 17, 2011 photo, underground water flows through the Hezekiah’s tunnel in Jerusalem. Underneath the stone buildings and crowded alleys of old Jerusalem, hundreds of people are moving at any given moment through tunnels, vaulted medieval chambers and Roman sewers in a rapidly expanding subterranean city invisible from the streets above.« Read less

 (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Archaeological digs under the disputed Old City are a matter of immense sensitivity. For Israel, the tunnels are proof of the depth of Jewish roots here, and this has made the tunnels one of Jerusalem’s main tourist draws: The number of visitors, mostly Jews and Christians, has risen dramatically in recent years to more than a million visitors in 2010.

But many Palestinians, who reject Israel’s sovereignty in the city, see them as a threat to their own claims to Jerusalem. And some critics say they put an exaggerated focus on Jewish history.

In this May 17, 2011 photo, a visitor is silhouetted ...

Visitor is silhouetted in Zedekiah’s Cave

In this May 17, 2011 photo, a visitor is silhouetted in Zedekiah’s Cave in Jerusalem’s Old City. Underneath the stone buildings and crowded alleys of oldJerusalem, hundreds of people are moving at any given moment through tunnels, vaulted medieval chambers and Roman sewers in a rapidly expanding subterranean city invisible from the streets above.« Read less

 (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

A new underground link is opening within two months, and when it does, there will be more than a mile (two kilometers) of pathways beneath the city. Officials say at least one other major project is in the works. Soon, anyone so inclined will be able to spend much of their time in Jerusalem without seeing the sky.

In this May 17, 2011 picture, visitors walk through ...

Visitors walk through Zedekiah’s Cave

In this May 17, 2011 picture, visitors walk through Zedekiah’s Cave in Jerusalem’s Old City. Underneath the stone buildings and crowded alleys of old Jerusalem,

On a recent morning, a man carrying surveying equipment walked across a two-millennia-old stone road, paused at the edge of a hole and disappeared underground.

AP Photo/Bernat Armangue

In a multilevel maze of rooms and corridors beneath the Muslim Quarter, workers cleared rubble and installed steel safety braces to shore up crumbling 700-year-old Mamluk-era arches.

In this May 17, 2011 photo, ultra-orthodox Jewish ...

Ultra-orthodox Jewish men pray

In this May 17, 2011 photo, ultra-orthodox Jewish men pray in the Western Wall tunnel in Jerusalem’s Old City. Underneath the stone buildings and crowded… Read more »

 (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Above ground, a group of French tourists emerged from a dark passage they had entered an hour earlier in the Jewish Quarter and found themselves among Arab shops on the Via Dolorosa, the traditional route Jesus took to his crucifixion.

In this May 17, 2011 photo, a Jewish girl is ...

Jewish girl is reflected

In this May 17, 2011 photo, a Jewish girl is reflected in an art piece depicting a Jewish Menorah displayed in the Western Wall tunnel in Jerusalem’s Old… Read more »

 (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

South of the Old City, visitors to Jerusalem can enter a tunnel chipped from the bedrock by a Judean king 2,500 years ago and walk through knee-deep water under the Arab neighborhood of Silwan. Beginning this summer, a new passage will be open nearby: a sewer Jewish rebels are thought to have used to flee the Roman legions who destroyed the Jerusalem temple in 70 A.D.

The sewer leads uphill, passing beneath the Old City walls before expelling visitors into sunlight next to the rectangular enclosure where the temple once stood, now home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the gold-capped Dome of the Rock.

In this May 17, 2011 picture, external light ...

External light illuminates Hezekiah’s tunnel

In this May 17, 2011 picture, external light illuminates Hezekiah’s tunnel in Jerusalem. Underneath the stone buildings and crowded alleys of old Jerusalem,… Read more »

 (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

From there, it’s a short walk to a third passage, the Western Wall tunnel, which continues north from the Jewish holy site past stones cut by masons working for King Herod and an ancient water system. Visitors emerge near the entrance to an ancient quarry called Zedekiah’s Cave that descends under the Muslim Quarter.

The next major project, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority, will follow the course of one of the city’s main Roman-era streets underneath the prayer plaza at the Western Wall. This route, scheduled for completion in three years, will link up with the Western Wall tunnel.

The excavations and flood of visitors exist against a backdrop of acute distrust between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims, who are suspicious of any government moves in the Old City and particularly around the Al-Aqsa compound, Islam’s third-holiest shrine. Jews know the compound as the Temple Mount, site of two destroyed temples and the center of the Jewish faith for three millennia.

In this May 17, 2011 photo, a visitor holding ...

Visitor holding flashlight walks

In this May 17, 2011 photo, a visitor holding a flashlight walks through the Hezekiah’s tunnel in Jerusalem. Underneath the stone buildings and crowded… Read more »

 (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Muslim fears have led to violence in the past: The 1996 opening of a new exit to the Western Wall tunnel sparked rumors among Palestinians that Israel meant to damage the mosques, and dozens were killed in the ensuing riots. In recent years, however, work has gone ahead without incident.

Mindful that the compound has the potential to trigger devastating conflict, Israel’s policy is to allow no excavations there. Digging under Temple Mount, the Israeli historian Gershom Gorenberg has written, “would be like trying to figure out how a hand grenade works by pulling the pin and peering inside.”

Despite the Israeli assurances, however, rumors persist that the excavations are undermining the physical stability of the Islamic holy sites.

“I believe the Israelis are tunneling under the mosques,” said Najeh Bkerat, an official of the Waqf, the Muslim religious body that runs the compound under Israel’s overall security control.

Samir Abu Leil, another Waqf official, said he had heard hammering that very morning underneath the Waqf’s offices, in a Mamluk-era building that sits just outside the holy compound and directly over the route of the Western Wall tunnel, and had filed a complaint with police.

The closest thing to an excavation on the mount, Israeli archaeologists point out, was done by the Waqf itself: In the 1990s, the Waqf opened a new entrance to a subterranean prayer space and dumped truckloads of rubble outside the Old City, drawing outrage from scholars who said priceless artifacts were being destroyed.

This month, an Israeli government watchdog released a report saying Waqf construction work in the compound in recent years had been done without supervision and had damaged antiquities. The issue is deemed so sensitive that the details of the report were kept classified.

Some Israeli critics of the tunnels point to what they call an exaggerated emphasis on a Jewish narrative.

“The tunnels all say: We were here 2,000 years ago, and now we’re back, and here’s proof,” said Yonathan Mizrachi, an Israeli archaeologist. “Living here means recognizing that other stories exist alongside ours.”

Yuval Baruch, the Antiquities Authority archaeologist in charge of Jerusalem, said his diggers are careful to preserve worthy finds from all of the city’s historical periods. “This city is of interest to at least half the people on Earth, and we will continue uncovering the past in the most professional way we can,” he said.