July 29, 2009
Contact:
Anna Christopher, NPR


   

NPR NEWS' MORNING EDITION IN AFGHANISTAN
TO REPORT ON THE PEOPLE AND PLACES
KEY TO UPCOMING PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

HOST RENEE MONTAGNE'S THREE-WEEK REPORTING TRIP
BEGINS THIS WEEK
WITH PROFILES OF MAJOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES,
INTERVIEW WITH AMB. RICHARD HOLBROOKE


July 28, 2009; Washington, D.C. – As Afghanistan hurtles towards a presidential election in the midst of a broadening war, the country is wracked with instability, corruption, poverty, an entrenched drug trade, and the continued oppression of women. Its next president – whether that's President Hamid Karzai or one of a dozen challengers – will face massive political and economic problems, at a time when President Barack Obama has committed an additional 21,000 U.S. troops to make success in Afghanistan a top priority.

To understand what this election means for the next chapter in the country's history, and the people and places who are central to it, NPR News Morning Edition host Renee Montagne returns to Afghanistan in July and August for three weeks of special reports, beginning this week. Montagne will travel to major cities and remote villages to measure the pre-election mood, profile the major (and some minor) presidential candidates, and hit the campaign trail – a new concept in Afghanistan's burgeoning democracy. All of Montagne's coverage will be heard on Morning Edition and be available at www.NPR.org

This week, Montagne is interviewing the two leading challengers to President Karzai: independent Abdullah Abdullah, a doctor and politician who was formerly the country’s foreign minister, and Ashraf Ghani, chairman of the Institute of State Effectiveness and Afghanistan's finance minister from 2002 to 2004. She will also report on three minor candidates whose stories mirror Afghanistan's modern history: a former Communist general, a former Taliban, and a woman. On Monday, Montagne interviewed Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, at the American Embassy in Kabul. Holbrooke told Montagne that the election is "the most important event in Afghanistan this year; the first contested elections in Afghanistan's history. What I've seen, is democracy at work. ...This is all politics, western-style. In a war-time condition, it's just remarkable to watch. It's exciting."

This is Montagne's fourth time reporting from Afghanistan since 2001. On previous trips, she interviewed farmers and mullahs, potters and poll workers, President Karzai, the only woman governor of a province, and an infamous warlord. She produced three series: "Recreating Afghanistan" in 2002; "Afghanistan Votes" in 2004; and 2006’s "The War: Five Years On," which was honored by the Overseas Press Club.

Morning Edition's trip to Afghanistan coincides with NPR News' continued emphasis on covering the critical stories emerging from the region. NPR maintains a permanent bureau in Kabul led by bureau chief Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, whose frequent reports are heard across all of NPR's programming. Beginning this spring and continuing through December, NPR is also following a Marine unit on deployment from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to southern Afghanistan, embedding with the Marines abroad and reporting on how their families are coping at home. The series is named after what the unit calls itself – "America's Battalion" – and is being reported by a team of NPR correspondents, an NPR Member station reporter and photojournalist David Gilkey, who is now traveling with Montagne. Visit the Afghanistan section at NPR.org for all related coverage.

With 17 foreign bureaus and offices, more than any other major U.S. broadcast network, NPR News offers daily in-depth international coverage that is consistently recognized for broadcast excellence. In addition to Kabul, in the region NPR maintains permanent bureaus in Baghdad, New Delhi, Cairo and Jerusalem; its newest bureau, in Islamabad, Pakistan, opened in April 2009.

Morning Edition, the two-hour newsmagazine airing weekdays and hosted by Steve Inskeep in Washington, D.C. and Renée Montagne from NPR West in Culver City, Calif., is public radio’s most listened-to program with nearly 14 million weekly listeners. Find local stations and broadcast times.