Sean Carberry

Sean Carberry is NPR's international correspondent based in Kabul. His work can be heard on all of NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.

Prior to moving into his current role, he was responsible for producing for NPR's foreign correspondents in the Middle East and "fill-in" reporting. Carberry travels extensively across the Middle East to cover a range of stories such as the impact of electricity shortages on the economy in Afghanistan and the experiences of Syrian refugees in Turkish camps.

Carberry has reported from more than two-dozen countries including Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, and Iceland. In 2010, Carberry won the Gabriel Award Certificate of Merit for America Abroad's "The First Freedom," and in 2011 was awarded the Sigma Delta Chi Award as lead producer and correspondent for America Abroad's series, "The Arab World's Demographic Dilemma."

Since joining NPR, Carberry worked with Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in Tripoli for NPR's coverage of the fall of the Libyan capital. He also covered the post-US withdrawal political crisis in Baghdad in December 2011, and recently completed a two month fill-in reporting assignment in Kabul that led to his current role.

Before coming to NPR in 2011, Carberry worked at America Abroad Media where he served as technical director and senior producer in addition to traveling internationally to report and produce radio and multimedia content for America Abroad's monthly radio news documentaries and website. He also worked at NPR Member Station WBUR in Boston as a field and political producer, associate producer/technical director, and reporter, contributing to NPR, newscasts, and WBUR's Here and Now.

In addition to his journalistic accolades, Carberry is a well-rounded individual who has also been an assistant professor of music production and engineering at Berklee College of Music in Boston, received a Gold Record as Recording Engineer for Susan Tedeschi's Grammy-Nominated album "Just Won't Burn," engineered music for the television program "Sex in the City," is a certified SCUBA diver, and is a graduate of the Skip Barber School of Auto Racing.

Carberry earned a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from Lehigh University and a Masters of Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School, with a focus in Politics, National Security, and International Affairs.

It's one of the most touted "positive statistics" about Afghanistan: Today, there are 10 million Afghans enrolled in school, 40 percent of them female.

Under the Taliban, about 1 million boys and almost no girls were attending schools. Western officials routinely point to the revived education system as a sign of success and hope for the future.

As the war in Afghanistan enters its 13th year, the political and security situation there remains precarious. But the country is hoping to reach a milestone next spring: the first democratic transfer of power in the country's history.

And there's no shortage of candidates vying to succeed President Hamid Karzai — who is barred from running for a third term.

The Taliban have been waging a particularly bloody offensive this year now that Afghan government forces are in charge of security. The result: Afghan army and police are suffering record numbers of casualties — far more than NATO ever did at the height of its troop presence in Afghanistan.

So even as NATO forces are preparing to leave, they are working to bolster the medical capabilities of Afghan forces at hospitals, clinics and training centers across the country.

I confess I'm not much of a museum tourist. On a recent visit to Croatia's capital, Zagreb, I strolled past three museums without feeling any urge to step inside. Then I came across one I just couldn't ignore: the Museum of Broken Relationships.

"It's a collection of objects donated by people who have broken up," says Drazen Grubisic, a co-owner of the museum. "Each item has an accompanying story."

Some are amusing, others sarcastic and a few are just plain heartbreaking.

It's 8 a.m. on a recent day at Forward Operating Base Nolay, a small Marine outpost in Taliban-infested Sangin District of southern Afghanistan's Helmand province. The Marines are in the process of caffeinating and preparing for the day.

Suddenly, explosions and gunfire ring out. The Marines don't run for their weapons or bunkers for that matter. They don't even flinch.

"We can sit here and we can have a cup of coffee when there's booms going on, we're not concerned about it," says Lt. Col. Jonathan Loney.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are better known for their verbal fights and occasional border clashes, but for the first time since 1976, they battled on a soccer field in Kabul.

Some 6,000 rabid Afghan fans cheered on their team, clad in red uniforms. There were horns, flags, and face paint. It looked like any soccer game in the world, except for all the riot police, snipers, and Blackhawk helicopters passing overhead periodically.

Ahmad Mirwais, a 27-year-old tailor, was one of those lucky enough to score a ticket.

Morning traffic in Kabul can be punishing enough as it is. But on a recent day, there's an extra element clogging up the streets, a scene you don't see on a typical day in the Afghan capital.

At the peak of fighting in Afghanistan's Helmand Province, there were 20,000 Marines battling the Taliban. Now there are 8,000 — and more are heading home every month.

Among the latest to pack up was Regimental Combat Team 7.

At their mission's recent closing ceremony, several hundred Marines gathered in the scorching desert heat at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province. Their tan, pixelated fatigues blended in amidst the vast expanse of sand-colored tents and buildings of the largest Marine base in Afghanistan.

If you think it's tough being a Cabinet secretary in the U.S., having to deal with the demands of a fiercely partisan Congress and testify a few times a year, try being the Afghan interior minister.

"I have been summoned by the lower house 93 times, and 79 times by the upper house," says Ghulam Mujtaba Patang, who for the past 10 months has been in charge of the ministry that oversees the Afghan National Police.

"Based on this calculation, I have had one day in a week to work for the people," he says.

Saturday Night Live. The Daily Show. Zang-e-Khatar.

OK, maybe you haven't heard of that last one. But the comedy-sketch television show is well known in Afghanistan, where Zang-e-Khatar, or Danger Bell, is one of the most watched programs.

The U.S. has been pushing the Taliban and the Afghan government to find a political solution for the past year and a half. But every time it seems the parties are close to starting peace talks, a new demand or controversy arises and nothing happens.

In the latest attempt, the Taliban finally opened a political office in Qatar, a move that was supposed to set the stage for negotiations. But when the Taliban envoys gave that office the trappings of an embassy, a furious Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, called off the talks, and they have yet to be re-scheduled.

Qatar's capital, Doha, is a post-modern city rising like a mirage out of the hot sands of the Arabian Desert. The ever-growing skyscrapers are stunning, and in some cases, head-scratching works of architecture and engineering. Standing in the city, you almost expect to see the Jetsons fly by.

Qatar is also doing something unusual when it comes to leadership. The 61-year-old emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, stepped down last week and handed power to his 33-year-old son, Sheik Tamim.

I've just returned to Kabul after a month out of the country. In a place where it sometimes feels like nothing changes, a lot has changed.

First, a few oddities. An Afghan businessman on my street apparently bought a lion cub and has been keeping it on his roof. I'm not sure if that has anything to do with the fact that I have yet to see any of the ubiquitous, dust-caked street dogs in the neighborhood since I returned, but I don't miss them.

Climbing the rickety metal staircase is precarious enough if you aren't on crutches, but it's simply dangerous if you are. At the top is the office of Janbazan-e-Mayhan, one of many social councils for disabled Afghans. Men missing arms, legs or hands sit around the small room.

Afghanistan isn't an easy place for anyone to make a living. But for those with disabilities, it's a downright hostile environment. Tens of thousands have been maimed and disabled during decades of conflict. Jobs are scarce, and there's almost nothing that's handicapped-accessible.

For years, reports have suggested that Afghanistan is sitting on massive deposits of copper, gold, iron and rare earth minerals valued up to $3 trillion. This provides hope for a future economy that would not have to rely so heavily on foreign donations.

But with an uncertain political, regulatory and security environment, international investors are hesitant. And it could be many years before Afghanistan begins extracting its mineral wealth.

On a sunny spring day in eastern Afghanistan's Paktia province, Afghan officials and U.S. troops and civilians gather inside the ancient mud fort in the center of Forward Operating Base Gardez. They're attending a ceremony marking the formal end of the work of the provincial reconstruction team, or PRT.

When 23-year-old Solomon "Sully" Omar felt the music scene in his native Denver wasn't giving him what he was looking for, he made a radical move. He headed for Kabul, capital of the war-torn country his parents had fled decades ago.

"I came here to continue my education and at the same time see what's in the music scene here and bring some of the skills and abilities that I have to the music scene," says Omar.

In Afghanistan, where most people are illiterate and live in areas without paved roads or regular electricity, a state-of-the-art smart-chip ID card may seem extravagant. But the government believes it can help with everything from census data to voter registration to health care.

The format of the proposed card, however, is fueling debate over ethnicity and identity at a time when anxiety is already high over the drawdown of NATO troops.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some other news. For the second time in less than a week, Afghan and Pakistani forces have exchanged fire along their shared border. The countries clashed again yesterday over a gate that Pakistani forces have been building on what Afghans say is their side of the line. The roots of this problem run much deeper.

But as NPR's Sean Carberry reports,.

After a report in The New York Times this week, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has acknowledged that the CIA has been secretly delivering bags of money to his office since the beginning of the war more than a decade ago.

It seems almost trivial at first: the latest Human Rights Watch report on Afghanistan says female police officers need their own toilets. Sure, who's going to argue with that. But why is it a big deal?

Here's how it unfolds.

Female police officers are experiencing high levels of harassment, sexual assault and rape — often at the hands of their male colleagues. Where is most of this activity taking place? In police station bathrooms and changing rooms.

The Taliban will launch their annual spring offensive on Sun., April 28, the group said Saturday.

In a press release, the Taliban said that the offensive will target "America, NATO and their backers for the gratification of Allah Almighty, independence of Afghanistan and establishing in it an Islamic government while we humbly raise our hands towards Allah Almighty for its success and hope for a favorable and triumphant end."

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Over the weekend in Afghanistan, a suicide bomber took the life of five Americans. They were on a mission to deliver books to an Afghan school. They were military personnel, a Defense Department civilian, and the first State Department Foreign Service officer to be killed in Afghanistan.

She was 25-year-old Anne Smedinghoff. NPR's Sean Carberry, in Kabul, sent this remembrance.

Death comes with the territory when you work in conflict zones. On sometimes a daily basis, those of us who have worked in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular have filed stories with headlines like, "Four troops killed during insurgent attack," or "IED kills 10 civilians and wounds six."

It's a blur of numbers and uniforms. When we get word of an incident, we scramble to determine what happened, the nationality of the victims and any other pertinent details. But it's all very anonymous and impersonal, most of the time. It's reporting. It's work.

Much has changed since last November, when Afghans were praising Pakistan for saying it would no longer support the Taliban and would instead work for peace.

"We believe that relations between the two countries are deteriorating," says Aimal Faizi, spokesman for President Hamid Karzai.

Faizi says the downward slide started last month. The two countries had agreed to convene a conference of religious scholars, or ulema, to denounce suicide bombing. But the conference fell apart at the last minute, with each country blaming the other for undermining the effort.

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