What Challenges Lie Ahead In Kabul? NPR's Tom Bowman and Quil Lawrence talk to Michele Norris about the situation on the ground in Afghanistan.
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What Challenges Lie Ahead In Kabul?

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What Challenges Lie Ahead In Kabul?

What Challenges Lie Ahead In Kabul?

What Challenges Lie Ahead In Kabul?

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NPR's Tom Bowman and Quil Lawrence talk to Michele Norris about the situation on the ground in Afghanistan.

NORRIS: So how is the war really going? For months now we've been hearing from the administration that progress is being made in Afghanistan. President Obama reiterated that last night when he said this...

BARACK OBAMA: Even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance.

NORRIS: And Tom, I want to begin with you. As you've been traveling with the U.S. Marines and Army units over the past three weeks, could you give us a broad picture from the military's point of view of where things stand now?

TOM BOWMAN: And overall, they're saying that the security situation is much, much better, but they caution that by saying it is fragile and reversible.

NORRIS: Tom, we hear the president talk about the light of a secure peace that might be seen in the distance and the progress that's being made. How would the military quantify that in terms of the number of attacks, troop deaths, other measures?

BOWMAN: Also, they point at there are tens of thousands of more Afghan security forces. So there are a number of ways they are pointing to progress. And they also say that they are killing and capturing a lot more Taliban commanders.

NORRIS: Thank you, Tom Bowman. Now, I want to bring Quil Lawrence into this as well. Quil, you've been covering more of the civilian side of this conflict. Does a position of strength for the U.S. military in that case translate into a better reality for the people of Afghanistan?

QUIL LAWRENCE: They keep on hearing from the Americans and sometimes from the government that the direction of things have changed, but from their perspective, maybe the ship is turned around, but it's still in the middle of the ocean.

NORRIS: What would constitute a successful end to this conflict in Afghanistan? And what does the future look like in terms of military involvement? The president was talking about a drawdown, but not a complete withdrawal of American forces.

LAWRENCE: But they also say they need a government that responds to the needs of their people. Security is definitely getting better but a lot of officers I talk with say the governance part still isn't happening.

NORRIS: Quil?

LAWRENCE: Now, if you go to places, for example, the capital of Kabul, they're really uncertain. They'll tell me that we still need so much help - we want the Americans to stay here for five more years, for 10 more years. Someone this morning told me he wanted the Americans maybe to stay for 50 years, until Afghanistan has reeducated its population; until its government works; until its army and police are able to defend the country from very hostile neighbors, as they see it, as well as from threats within.

NORRIS: I've been speaking with Quil Lawrence and Tom Bowman, two of our correspondents reporting from Afghanistan. Quil, Tom, thanks to both of you.

BOWMAN: You're welcome.

LAWRENCE: Thank you.

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