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Nancy Youssef on Afghanistan
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September 11, 2009

Recent events have returned Americans' attention to their eight-year war in Afghanistan. Reports of a deteriorating political situation, increasing military and civilian casualties, and accusations of fraud in the re-election of President Hamid Karzai have some wondering about the state of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. They are not alone. The death of a British soldier during the rescue of NEW YORK TIMES reporter and the international furor over casualties from a bombing raid requested by German forces has those governments on the defensive about their Afghan operations. In addition, under pressure from member countries, NATO has asked the United Nations for new timelines for withdrawal.

In August, General Stanley McChrystal delivered a classified report to the White House that many believe sets the stage for a further expansion of the war. McClatchy News Service reported that some top Pentagon officials fear that further escalation will be in vain without a clear definition of our mission there.

To get a reality check, Bill Moyers interviews Nancy Youssef, McClatchy's chief Pentagon correspondent. Youssef, who recently returned from Afghanistan, explains that the war has morphed continuously, to the point that it feels like a succession of separate conflicts: "We talk about Afghanistan as an eight year war. But the truth is, it's been eight separate, individual years of war."

All this leaves U.S. and NATO soldiers with a host of ambiguous choices. Youssef says they are faced with questions like should they "train the soldiers to serve a corrupt government that we're not sure we can put faith in? Stabilize a country against the Taliban that some residents are comfortable or at least accept in their communities?"

Youssef perceives a disconnect between what both Presidents Bush and Obama have called a "war of necessity" and the way the war has been handled thus far: "What's happening now in Washington and all these assessments — we're trying to answer very basic questions: 'What is the goal? What is the strategy? How do you implement the strategy?' So, even though we call it a war of necessity, I don't think it's ever been treated as a war of necessity, even now. That debate is just starting, in year eight of the war. It's extraordinary."

Nancy Youssef
Nancy Youssef Nancy Youssef, McClatchy's chief Pentagon correspondent, spent the past four years covering the Iraq war, most recently as Baghdad bureau chief. Her pieces focused on the everyday Iraqi experience, civilian causalities and how the U.S.'s military strategy was reshaping Iraq's social and political dynamics.

She joined the Washington Bureau in August 2005. Before that, she was a reporter for the DETROIT FREE PRESS, covering legal issues. While at the FREE PRESS, she traveled throughout Jordan and Iraq for Knight Ridder, covering the Iraq war from the time leading up to it through the post-war period. She began her journalism career at the BALTIMORE SUN.

She has won several awards for her work including from Maryland-D.C. Delaware Press Association and the Detroit chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. A Washington, D.C.-area native, she earned a bachelor's degree in economics from University of Virginia and began her post-graduate studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Her parents are from Egypt, and she has been visiting the region all of her life.

Guest photo by Robin Holland.
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References and Reading:
"General: Afghan Situation 'Serious'"
By Ann Scott Tyson, THE WASHINGTON POST, September 1, 2009.

"Fake Afghan Poll Sites Favored Karzai, Officials Assert"
By Dexter Filkins and Carlotta Gal, NEW YORK TIMES, September 6, 2009.

"Eight years after 9/11, Taliban roils 80 percent of Afghanistan"
By Aunohita Mojumdar, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, September 11, 2009.

"Karzai in His Labyrinth"
By Elizabeth Rubin, THE NEW YORK TIMES, August 4, 2009.

TIMES TOPICS: Afghanistan
Complete coverage of Afghanistan in the NEW YORK TIMES.

"From insurgency to insurrection"
THE ECONOMIST, August 20, 2009.

NATO and Europe
"Britain, France and Germany urge Afghan pullout plan"
By Philip Webster and Michael Evans, THE AUSTRALIAN, September 11, 2009.

"German colonel 'overstepped authority' in deadly Afghan air strike "
By Ben Farmer, THE TELEGRAPH, September 10, 2009.

"Government gives up hope of more European Nato help in Afghanistan"
By Sean Rayment, THE TELEGRAPH, September 5, 2009.

Nancy Youssef

More stories from Nancy Youssef at McClatchy DC

"Military leery of Afghanistan escalation with no clear goals"
By Nancy A. Youssef, Jonathan S. Landay and Warren P. Strobel, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS, September 7, 2009.

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