Quil Lawrence

David Aquila ("Quil") Lawrence is an award-winning correspondent for NPR News, covering the millions of Americans who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as they transition to life back at home.

Previously, Lawrence served as NPR's Bureau Chief in Kabul. He joined NPR in 2009 as Baghdad Bureau Chief – capping off ten years of reporting in Iraq and all the bordering countries. That experience made the foundation for his first book Invisible Nation: How the Kurds' Quest for Statehood is Shaping Iraq and the Middle East, published in 2008.

Before coming to NPR, Lawrence was based in Jerusalem, as Middle East correspondent for The World, a BBC/PRI co-production. For the BBC he covered the fall of the Taliban in December 2001 and returned to Afghanistan periodically to report on development, the drug trade and insurgency.

Lawrence began his career as a freelancer for NPR and various newspapers while based in Bogota, Colombia, covering Latin America. Other reporting trips took him to Sudan, Morocco, Cuba, Pakistan and Iran.

A native of Maine, Lawrence studied history at Brandeis University, with concentrations in the Middle East and Latin America. He is fluent in Spanish and conversant in Arabic.

Pages

Afghanistan
4:32 am
Wed May 23, 2012

Afghan Public Protection Force Profile

A U.S. soldier watches members of the Afghan Public Protection Force arrive at the transition ceremony on the outskirts of the Afghan capital Kabul on March 15. The APPF replaces all private security contractors in the country.
Ahmad Jamshid AP

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 9:54 am

Nearly two years ago, Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered that gun-toting private security companies in his country be brought under state control. But the Afghan force to replace the foreign-funded contractors is off to a rocky start.

According to the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the new force will increase security costs for USAID projects and could even shut some of them down, at a loss of about $899 million. USAID in Kabul disagrees, and the dispute has gone public.

Read more
Afghanistan
2:53 am
Thu May 10, 2012

Afghan Goal: Toning Down The Radical Preachers

The Afghan government wants Muslim preachers to tone down sermons that often criticize the presence of American troops and praise the Taliban. Here, an Afghan youth drags his sheep past a group of men praying at a mosque in Kabul in November 2011.
Muhammed Muheisen AP

Originally published on Thu May 10, 2012 4:48 am

The ministry that governs religious affairs in Afghanistan has announced what some are calling a "three strikes" policy.

It's a warning directed at Muslim clerics, or imams, accused of inciting violence in their Friday sermons. Imams across the country routinely condemn the U.S. presence in Afghanistan and speak in favor of the Taliban.

Read more
Afghanistan
4:00 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

For Afghan Soldiers, A Battle For Respect

Manullah Ahmadzai, 27, lost the sight in his right eye while serving as a front-line soldier in the Afghan military. Ahmadzai is one of many soldiers who have been severely injured and say promised government benefits don't always arrive.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 7:07 pm

Last month, the Taliban carried out their largest coordinated attack across Afghanistan, including three sites inside the capital Kabul. It took an 18-hour gunfight to end the assault.

But even as they took cover, Kabul residents saw something new: their own soldiers taking the lead, with limited help from NATO. Television footage showed Afghan soldiers moving confidently into the building where the militants were holed up, avoiding reckless gunfire that might have endangered civilians in the crowded city.

Read more
Afghanistan
3:33 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Facing Death, Afghan Girl Runs To U.S. Military

Afghan women pass U.S. soldiers near Bagram Air Base outside Kabul in 2010. While conditions for Afghan women have improved over the past decade, but they still face many restrictions, as well as abuses like honor killings.
Joel Saget AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 10:44 am

In a remote part of Afghanistan early last year, a girl was sentenced to death. Her crime was possession of a cellphone. Her executioners were to be her brothers. They suspected her of talking on the phone with a boy. The girl, in her late teens, had dishonored the family, her brothers said.

"My older brother took the cellphone from me and beat me very badly. It was dinnertime. They told me that they would execute me after dinner. They said to me this would be my last meal," says "Lina," a pseudonym.

Read more
Afghanistan
6:23 am
Mon April 23, 2012

Deal Reached On U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership

Originally published on Mon April 23, 2012 6:36 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Read more
Afghanistan
4:00 am
Mon April 16, 2012

Taliban Claims Responsibility For Afghan Attacks

Transcript

LYNN NEARY, HOST:

What the Taliban are calling the start of their spring offensive kept security forces across Afghanistan fighting throughout Sunday and into this morning. Officials say 36 insurgents were killed in Kabul and three other eastern provinces. Three civilians died in the attacks, and eight members of the police and army were killed. American officials are praising Afghan forces, but questions remain about how the insurgents were able to infiltrate the most secure parts of the capital. NPR's Quil Lawrence reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)

Read more
Afghanistan
11:13 am
Thu March 29, 2012

Dreams Of A Mining Future On Hold In Afghanistan

Afghan miners in a makeshift emerald mine in the Panjshir Valley in 2010. Reports suggest that Afghanistan is sitting on significant deposits of oil, gas, copper, iron, gold and coal, as well as a range of precious gems like emeralds and rubies. Currently these minerals are largely untapped and are still being mapped.
Majid Saeedi Getty Images

Originally published on Fri May 17, 2013 5:27 pm

Afghanistan faces the daunting prospect of a drastic reduction in foreign aid, which currently makes up about 90 percent of the country's revenue. Some have seen an economic life raft in geological surveys that indicate huge deposits of copper, iron, uranium and lithium in various parts of the country. But multinational mining firms have been slow to invest in Afghanistan — not least because of questions about stability after American troops draw down.

Read more
Afghanistan
4:00 am
Tue March 20, 2012

Afghan Farmer Lost 11 Relatives In Shooting Rampage

Afghans gather outside a military base in the Panjwai district in Afghanistan on March 11, after 16 civilians were killed in a massacre allegedly carried out by a U.S. soldier.
Allauddin Khan AP

Originally published on Tue March 20, 2012 5:49 pm

Afghans say they're so inured to civilians killed in wars that they bury their dead and move on. That's not so easy for Muhammad Wazir. He lost his mother, his wife, a sister-in-law, a brother, a nephew, his four daughters and two of his sons in last week's mass shooting in two villages.

"My little boy, Habib Shah, is the only one left alive, and I love him very much," says Wazir.

Read more
Afghanistan
8:00 am
Sun March 18, 2012

Will Massacre In Kandahar Be A Policy Tipping Point?

Originally published on Sun March 18, 2012 9:57 am

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

In Afghanistan, the massacre of 16 unarmed Afghan civilians, allegedly by a U.S. service member, is the latest in a string of events which may have shifted the dynamic between the Afghan people and the U.S.-led Army that's been occupying the country for a decade.

Read more
Afghanistan
2:43 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

For Afghan Policewomen, Sex Abuse Is A Job Hazard

Afghan female police officers are trained by Afghan police and NATO soldiers in eastern Afghanistan's Ghazni province on Sept. 12. In the culturally conservative country, women serving in the security forces say they face systemic sexual coercion and even rape by male colleagues.
STR EPA/Landov

Originally published on Thu March 8, 2012 8:33 pm

The image of Afghan women wearing police and army uniforms is meant to inspire pride and hope for a future where the rights of women will be protected in Afghanistan.

So why would female police officers in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif be ashamed to admit they wear the badge?

"Except my very close family members, no one really knows that I am a police officer," said one woman at a NATO training session.

Read more
Afghanistan
5:51 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

U.S. Apology Fails To Stop Afghan Riots

Afghan demonstrators burn an effigy of President Obama and shout anti-U.S. slogans in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Wednesday, Feb. 22. Afghans have been rioting for three days after word that several Qurans were desecrated at a NATO base. The U.S. says the burning of the Qurans was accidental.
Noorullah Shirzada AFP/Getty Images

President Obama apologized in a letter and Afghan President Hamid Karzai appealed for calm.

But that was not enough to keep Afghans from protesting violently for a third day following word that several copies of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, were burned at a large NATO base outside Kabul.

The latest incident resembled other cases in recent years, where rumors that a Quran was desecrated — even thousands of miles away in Florida or Guantanamo Bay — ignited deadly riots in Afghanistan.

Read more
Health
12:01 am
Mon February 20, 2012

Army Moves To Act Fast On Battlefield Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries are most often caused by powerful blasts from improvised explosive devices. A roadside bomb explodes and the concussive effect violently shakes the brain inside the skull.
Stefano Rellandini Reuters /Landov

Nineteen-year-old Army Pvt. Cody Dollman has a look in his eyes that makes you think he probably used to fight much bigger kids on the playground back home in Wichita, Kan. He says he always wanted to be a soldier — both his grandfathers served in the military — but he's the first in his family to see action overseas.

Read more
Remembrances
7:05 am
Fri February 17, 2012

Remembering 'Intrepid Storyteller' Anthony Shadid

New York Times journalist Anthony Shadid (second from right) reported from Embaba, a neighborhood in Cairo, in February 2011 during the revolution that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Ed Ou Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:01 am

I met Anthony Shadid on a ruined airstrip in western Afghanistan in the winter of 2001-'02. He was sporting a beard and longer hair in those days that made him look a little like a crusading Arab warrior. We spoke briefly and exchanged a few bits of useful news about the place. As I recall his face now, I realize Anthony's secret: His sincerity was piercing, disarming and infectious.

Read more
Afghanistan
3:15 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

Snowstorms Take A Toll In Afghan Refugee Camps

Aw Muhammad, a resident of a refugee camp in western Kabul, pulls back a shade as one of his six surviving children looks out on the snow. Afghanistan is suffering one of its harshest winters in many years.
Quil Lawrence NPR

Kabul's fourth snowstorm in the past month brought children out to play across the city, including those in the Charahi Qambar refugee camp in the western part of the capital.

Many of the children in the camp don't remember any other life outside of this mud-brick shantytown. Most of their parents fled the southern province of Helmand when the war heated up there four years ago.

Read more
Afghanistan
12:01 am
Wed February 8, 2012

Afghans Hedge Bets Amid Mixed Messages From U.S.

Afghan men walk past American soldiers in Ghazni province on Thursday. U.S. and Afghan officials are in talks that will determine how many American troops stay in Afghanistan after the NATO mission ends in 2014.
AFP AFP/Getty Images

After a long hiatus, the Afghan and U.S. governments this week reopened talks on a strategic partnership that will determine how many American troops stay in Afghanistan past the end of the NATO mission in 2014.

Read more
Afghanistan
3:18 pm
Fri February 3, 2012

Afghans View Peace Talks With Hope, Suspicion

Taliban fighters walk with their weapons after joining Afghan government forces during a ceremony in Herat province, last month. Thirty fighters left the Taliban to join government forces in western Afghanistan. The Taliban announced recently that they would open a political office in Qatar ahead of talks with Washington.
Aref Karimi AFP/Getty Images

The surprise announcement last month that the U.S. and the Taliban could soon begin peace talks in the Gulf state of Qatar may have increased the chances of a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan.

But Afghans are treating the prospect with equal measures of hope and suspicion — perhaps more of the latter from the government of President Hamid Karzai.

Read more
Afghanistan
3:04 pm
Tue January 17, 2012

Gains In Afghan Health: Too Good To Be True?

A nurse weighs an Afghan child at a U.S.-funded clinic in Farza, Afghanistan, in September. A new U.S.-sponsored survey shows dramatic gains in life expectancy and other aspects of health care in Afghanistan. But some experts are questioning the accuracy of the results.
John Moore Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 17, 2012 7:19 pm

A U.S.-sponsored mortality survey released last year announced huge improvements in health across Afghanistan. But the gains are so great that experts are still arguing about whether it's correct.

During three decades of war, Afghanistan remained a black hole of health information. The few mortality studies looked at a small slice of the population and then extrapolated.

Read more
Afghanistan
12:01 am
Fri January 13, 2012

In Afghanistan, Some Former Taliban Become Police

The northern Afghan town of Char Bolak is guarded by the Critical Infrastructure Police, an auxiliary police program. The U.S. is increasingly relying on ad hoc local militias to fight the Taliban, but residents and government officials have concerns about the militias.
Quil Lawrence NPR

Originally published on Fri January 13, 2012 11:50 am

NATO officials say they have reversed a disturbing trend in northern Afghanistan.

In 2009 and 2010, Taliban insurgents made inroads across the north of the country, which had been secure for years. NATO says that last year it brought the north back under control, but Afghan officials say it's thanks to one of the most controversial American tactics here: the use of ad hoc local militias.

Read more
Afghanistan
3:09 pm
Wed January 11, 2012

Afghan Announcements Annoy U.S., Hurt Relations

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, shown here during a press conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Kabul last month, has become increasingly combative toward the U.S. recently.
Massoud Hossaini AFP/Getty Images

U.S.-Pakistan ties are virtually frozen. And now, relations between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Washington are once again getting frosty.

Over the weekend Karzai surprised the Americans with the demand that the largest U.S.-run prison be turned over to Afghan control much sooner that planned.

It's the latest in a series of announcements by the Afghan government that sometimes appear designed to embarrass and annoy U.S. officials, as well as complicate American plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Read more
The Record
12:00 am
Fri December 30, 2011

Music In Afghanistan A Sensitive Subject

A performance at the Afghan National Institute of Music in November of 2010.
Daniel Wilkinson U.S. Embassy Kabul Afghanistan/flickr.com

Originally published on Fri December 30, 2011 12:01 am

Afghanistan sits at a crossroads between central Asia, Iran and the Indian subcontinent, and the country's music reflects that. Kabul hosted two international music festivals this fall — one traditional, the other a rock concert — but music is still a sensitive issue. International donors, including the U.S., have helped refurbish a conservatory in Kabul, but some of the students say they still face disapproval from extremist elements, even at the university.

Read more
Environment
3:57 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

U.S. Military Tests Out Green Tech In Afghanistan

In this photo released by the U.S. Marines and taken in December 2010, Lance Cpl. Dakota Hicks, from Laharpe, Ill., connects a radio battery to a portable solar panel communication system in Sangin District, in Afghanistan.The U.S. military is trying to wean itself off reliance on fossil fuels by employing solar energy and biofuels, among other measures.
Gunnery Sgt. William Price Small AP

Originally published on Thu December 29, 2011 8:19 pm

The heavy, mine-resistant vehicles that almost all U.S. military personnel use to move about Afghanistan are gas guzzlers. And even though the U.S. military buys that fuel at a reasonable price, the energy it takes to fly it and truck it to remote parts of Afghanistan drives the price into the stratosphere.

There's also a much greater cost, says Ray Mabus, secretary of the U.S. Navy.

Read more
Afghanistan
4:20 pm
Tue December 13, 2011

For U.S. Troops, Fighting Starts At Afghan Border

Staff Sgt. Joshua White (center), Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell (left) and Brigade Sgt. Maj. Mike Boom (right) observe a joint patrol of U.S. Army and Afghan National Army soldiers and Afghan police in Paktika province, Afghanistan, on Oct. 3. The mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan has become a new front line in the Afghan war.
Matt Ford AP

Originally published on Tue December 13, 2011 11:37 pm

The mountains along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan would be cruel enough without the war raging on below — cliffs drop from 8,000-foot peaks that are spotted with only a few trees among the rocks.

But Afghanistan's eastern border has become the focus of the conflict as militants plot their attacks inside Pakistan, then slip across the rugged frontier to carry them out.

In Afghanistan's southeast Paktika province, Forward Operating Base Tillman looks across toward Pakistan over craggy peaks that American troops have nicknamed "Big Ugly" and "Big Nasty."

Read more
Afghanistan
3:46 pm
Fri December 2, 2011

For Afghan Women, Rape Law Offers Little Protection

Afghan women walk in the northwestern city of Herat on Nov. 23. Women still have few rights, and can end up in jail on adultery charges when they accuse a man of rape. There are fears that women's rights will be further eroded when Western troops leave the country.
Aref Karimi AFP/Getty Images

This week, Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced the pardon of a 19-year-old Afghan woman who was imprisoned for adultery after being raped by a relative, in a case that has attracted international media coverage.

But what happened to the woman, Gulnaz, who has been in prison for two years, is not an isolated episode.

Many other women have suffered similar fates. A recent U.N. report suggests that laws to protect women in Afghanistan from rape and forced marriage are still not being enforced — with devastating results.

Read more
Afghanistan
4:00 am
Wed November 16, 2011

Afghan Council To Consider Framework For U.S. Partnership

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Read more
Afghanistan
4:33 pm
Thu October 20, 2011

Despite Recent Killings, Kandahar Appears Stable

The assassination of Ahmed Wali Karzai (center, shown in 2009), the half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, prompted fears of a security breakdown in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. Ahmed Wali Karzai was rumored to have a hand in everything that went on in the region: tribal affairs, politics and business.

Banaras Khan AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 20, 2011 4:42 pm

This past summer, two assassinations paralyzed the southern Afghan city of Kandahar with fears of a power vacuum.

In the first incident, President Hamid Karzai's half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, considered the unofficial kingpin of the south, was gunned down in July by a close associate. Two weeks later, a Taliban assassin killed the city's mayor, Ghulam Hamidi, with a bomb concealed in his turban.

Read more

Pages