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.

Despite Afghanistan's fierce winter, it's rare to find a house with insulation or a modern heating system. So Afghans rely on bukharis, stoves that look like an oil drum with a big rusty pipe growing out of the top that bends off into a hole in the wall.

That fact keeps the hundreds of wood vendors around Kabul quite happy. This winter, NPR staff fed several tons of firewood into their bukhari — and that's just one house in a city of about 5 million people.

The NATO campaign is now in a new phase. After years of fighting the Taliban and bolstering anemic local governance, NATO troops are handing those responsibilities over to the Afghans. NPR's Sean Carberry recently embedded with U.S. troops in the southern province of Kandahar as they worked on this new mission.

The fertile Arghandab Valley in Kandahar province is considered one of Afghanistan's breadbaskets. For years it was also a valley of death for NATO troops.

Lucy is a stereotypically giddy black labradoodle. She's not what you picture when you think of a military dog serving on the front lines in Afghanistan. She wiggles around the room chasing her tennis ball and thinks my microphone cover is a chew toy.

But her handler, Spc. Heath Garcia, says when Lucy is on a mission, she's all business. She's highly trained to sniff out improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, which are the No. 1 killer of civilians and troops in Afghanistan.

In addition to training and equipping Afghan soldiers, U.S. forces in Afghanistan have another critical mission: packing up more than 11 years worth of equipment and sending it home. The number of containers to move out is in the six figures, and some question whether everything can be shipped out by the end of 2014.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued a decree in 2009 banning violence against women. But the parliament, which is currently on its winter recess, has been unable to pass it and give it permanence as a law.

There's major disagreement on key provisions where Islamic and secular law come into conflict. And activists say the gains made in women's rights since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 are slipping away.

Masooda Karokhi, a female member of parliament, has been pushing to get the proposal through the male-dominated legislature.

Searching For Ibrahim

Feb 17, 2013

Over the years, al-Qaida has recruited young men in the Arab world, Africa and Central Asia, including Afghanistan. The group has also had some success in luring followers from Turkey.

Last month, Fahrettin Gumus, a retired security guard from Turkey's northwestern province of Bursa, went to Afghanistan in search of his son, who he had last heard from three years earlier.

The small-framed 57-year old says he often worried about his son Ibrahim, but he never through he'd go through with his plan to join al-Qaida.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, the new U.S. and International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, commander in Afghanistan, has only been in charge for a few days, and already he's been summoned to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office for what looks like a dressing down, according to a press release from the president's office.

Dunford was called in to discuss what was initially reported as an ISAF airstrike in Kunar province that killed 10 civilians late Tuesday night.

The Muhammad Mustafa mosque sits in a fairly well-off part of Kabul where government employees and some high-ranking officials live. Muhammad Ehsan Saiqal, a moderate, 54-year-old Muslim who welcomes girls into his Quran classes, is the imam. The slight, gray-bearded cleric preaches against suicide bombings.

"Islam doesn't permit suicide attacks," he says. "If someone kills any Muslim without any cause, under Shariah law [Islamic law] it means that he kills the whole Muslim world."

The U.S. and the international community have pledged $16 billion to support Afghan security forces after NATO troops complete their drawdown at the end of 2014. That money covers the cost of troops and equipment.

But just what equipment will be provided? Afghan military officials want big-ticket planes, tanks and other conventional weapons.

The U.S., however, says the Afghans need to get their strategic priorities in order, and focus less on prestige hardware and more on weaponry and equipment suitable for counterinsurgency warfare.

In Afghanistan, there was no sound of music when the Taliban ruled from 1996 to 2001. The Islamist militants destroyed music CDs and instruments and even jailed musicians.

Today, there are music schools and young Afghans playing in public. And, this weekend, 48 Afghan boys and girls are traveling to the U.S. to perform at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.

The new U.S. military policy on women serving in combat roles was crafted in Washington, but it will play out in places like Afghanistan.

And sitting outside at the military base at the Kabul airport, male and female troops offered their thoughts on what the new policy might mean.

"I wasn't completely surprised with it. It's not anything we haven't discussed before," said Capt. Monica Paden, a military intelligence officer from San Diego. "We have been slowly being integrated into combat arms and into units in support roles."

Regularly ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, Afghanistan has implemented what for it is a novel new program: selecting provincial and district officials on the basis of their skills, rather than connections.

By all accounts, Afghanistan's corruption is endemic at all levels of government. It's hoped the new effort will begin to curb graft, patronage and nepotism in the country's 34 provinces and roughly 360 districts.

As Afghan President Hamid Karzai comes to Washington to meet with President Obama and other U.S. officials this week, there is renewed discussion in Afghanistan about the possibility of a negotiated end to the country's war.

Recent talks hosted by France have rekindled hopes for some sort of reconciliation between the Taliban and Karzai's government. But given the decades of war in Afghanistan, many think the prospect of a peace deal remains nothing but talk.

Behind a tall metal gate in a nondescript nook of Kabul sits the Bamboo Wood Industries factory. It's not a place you're likely to stumble across by accident. Inside, a handful of men are cutting, painting and assembling desks and cabinets. The pieces being made are chocolate brown and quite modern looking.

Sitting in a spartan, unheated office above the factory floor is Fatima Jafari, the owner of the company. The 30-something woman started the business a little over a year ago.

The Afghan construction industry has been one of the big winners since the fall of the Taliban. NATO and the international community have pumped billions of dollars into building roads, schools and bases.

With the drawdown of troops and NGOs, however, comes a drawdown in construction spending, and that has Afghan contractors scrambling to find new business.

Sometimes, you don't have to go far to find a story. For the past few months, just stepping outside NPR's Kabul office has been a drama.

The neighborhood is in the midst of a major road and sewer renovation project. It's just one of many such projects that is badly needed in Kabul and elsewhere in the country.

But as is often the case, the pace and quality of the work has been uneven. And residents aren't so sure whether the final product will be worth the months of gridlock, power outages and business interruption.

Convulsed by war and civil strife for decades, Afghanistan has experienced some of the largest ebbs and flows of migration anywhere in the world.

It began with the Soviet invasion in 1979, which sent millions of Afghans fleeing to Iran and Pakistan. When the Taliban were driven from power in 2001, many Afghans began returning home.

Now, the country has hit another milestone: For the first time since 2002 and the beginning of the current war in Afghanistan, the country has a negative migration rate — more Afghans are leaving than returning.

Afghanistan first established a national women's soccer team just five years ago, and while they aren't yet World Cup material, they are making strides.

Last week, they got a little help from former U.S. Olympic soccer player Lorrie Fair, who staged a clinic in Kabul that was set up by the State Department.

Clad in her blue U.S. national team sweatsuit, Fair led the Afghan women through a series of exercises on the tennis court at the U.S. Embassy.

Afghan officials welcomed the release of Taliban prisoners by Pakistan in an attempt to jump-start a shaky peace process with the militant group. But many Afghans are wondering about the timing and the motive. They say mistrust born of decades of duplicity won't vanish with a few declarations or small gestures.

Secretary-General of the Afghan High Peace Council Mohammad Stanekzai was part of the delegation that recently traveled to Pakistan to discuss how the countries can cooperate and bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

According to a new survey by the Asia Foundation, 52 percent of the 6,300 Afghans it surveyed in June feel the country is heading in the right direction. It's the first time in eight years of conducting this survey that the foundation found a majority of Afghans held a positive view.

Uncertainty is gripping Afghanistan as the clock ticks toward the withdrawal of NATO combat troops by the end of 2014.

People and money are leaving the country. Housing prices are falling. Construction is slowing down. Many Afghans are trying to be hopeful, but even the most optimistic admit that a number of troubling variables could determine what post-2014 Afghanistan looks like.

The Panjshir Valley, some 60 miles north of Kabul, is one of the most scenic places in Afghanistan. The Panjshir River winds its way through barren mountains.

As NATO prepares to withdraw combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014, Afghan forces are increasingly taking the lead against the Taliban and other insurgents. But the results are mixed.

In parts of Logar Province, just south of Kabul, Afghan troops are successfully leading security operations. In other parts of the same province, where insurgents are more active, U.S. troops are still taking the lead.

From the outside, this white metal container looks like all the other mobile structures at Forward Operating Base Shank, the main NATO base in Afghanistan's Logar province. But rather than housing soldiers, offices or latrines, the building contains a fully functioning — if spartan — radio studio.

It wasn't Caesar's Palace. It was the Loya Jirga Hall at Kabul Polytechnic University -– a building where Afghanistan's elders gather to discuss matters of national importance.

But for one night, there was boxing with all the hype of Las Vegas –- minus the showgirls.

One of the most common complaints from Afghan forces and officials is that they don't have the equipment they need to lead the fight in Afghanistan. They routinely call on NATO to provide more cutting-edge hardware for Afghan troops.

Certainly, when you see a U.S. soldier standing next to an Afghan one, the difference is striking. U.S. soldiers are often saddled with pounds and pounds of electronics and gadgets, ranging from GPS units to night-vision goggles and radio-jamming devices.

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