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Journalist Describes Army Unit Tour in Afghanistan

Elizabeth Rubin, a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, describes life for a U.S. Army company assigned to a remote outpost in Afghanistan.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Finally tonight, Afghanistan. On Thursday, President Bush and other NATO leaders will discuss new strategies for the war. And we now get the perspective of an American Army company fighting there in Afghanistan.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    For American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, the fighting has been getting tougher. And the Taliban has been extending its reach all over the country, even into the capital, Kabul.

    American casualties since the Afghan war began in October 2001 are reaching 500 dead. Afghan civilian deaths also have been increasing, and that has drawn complaints from President Karzai.

    Contributing writer Elizabeth Rubin was in northeastern Afghanistan with an American military unit last fall. Her report recently appeared in The New York Times Sunday Magazine, and she joins us now.

    Welcome to you.

  • ELIZABETH RUBIN, New York Times Magazine:

    Thank you.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Tell us about the valley and the group of soldiers. This is Captain Dan Kearney and his men. And I noticed the title is "Captain Kearney's Quagmire." You really focused in on him and his men. Tell us about them.

  • ELIZABETH RUBIN:

    Well, they're called Battle Company. It's one of the companies of the battalion. There's about three platoons out in this valley.

    The valley is very hostile to American forces. The tribe there practice Wahhabi Islam, which is very different than the rest of Afghanistan. And they have said they want the Americans out of there.

    There's been an ongoing cycle of attacks by insurgents against Captain Kearney and his soldiers from villages, from villagers' houses.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    From the houses? And this is the problem that you write that they face all the time, right, is what to do about those attacks?

  • ELIZABETH RUBIN:

    Exactly. And the reason I've started to focus particularly on Kearney is because he's the commander on the ground of these forces. He's alone out there.

    He has his battalion commander back at base, but he's making decisions every day: What do I do? Do I fire back at the house, possibly kill a civilian and anger the villagers even more? Or do I let them possibly kill one of my troops?

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