JAMES HATTORI, host:
Afghans who work for U.S. and other NATO troops in Afghanistan are favorite target of the Taliban. The militants consider them traitors to be tortured and maimed.
That's what happened to Abdul Ghani. He works for the U.S.-led provincial reconstruction team. This year Taliban fighter's ambushed the convoy Ghani was in. They beat him then slice off his right ear. But a Navy commander in an American hospital in Afghanistan are giving back what the Taliban took away.
NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson sent to us this story from Kabul.
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Country singer Tobey Keith's "Taliban Song" plays in the operating room at CURE International Hospital in Kabul where Abdul Ghani is under the knife. It seems inappropriate to given the Taliban is the reason he is here in the first place. An Afghan mechanic whose ear was cut off by the Taliban because he was driving a truck loaded with food for American troops.
But on this day Abdul Ghani is getting a new ear, one crafted from his ribs and skin. Doctor say in a few months, the new ear will look as real as the one he lost. He is the fourth Afghan mutilated by the Taliban and made whole again by the very Americans the Taliban wants Afghans to avoid.
The reconstructed surgeries are the brainchild of Abdul Ghani's boss, Navy Commander Larry LeGree who heads the provincial reconstruction team in Kunar province.
Commander LARRY LeGREE (U.S. Navy): We basically want to look at what we could do to help these guys out because they were working with us. And not only for these guys - these three gentlemen specifically, but in general, what we could do to show the Taliban and show the people that the coalition force is working with their government offer alternatives to what the Taliban were offering.
NELSON: So LeGree contacted CURE Hospital in Kabul, which specializes in repairing birth defects. The charity hospital's administrators agreed to help.
Executive director Jim Kline…
Mr. JIM KLINE (Executive Director, CURE International Hospital, Kabul): This is just a nice way to give them not only their appearance back but a sense that they've reached out to the Americans, the Americans reaching back to them.
NELSON: The program recently got underway with the help of surgeons who volunteered their time, like Dr. Keith Rose(ph), who paid his own way to Kabul from Corpus Christi, Texas.
Dr. KEITH ROSE (Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired): Most of the time, we - the way these surgeries are done, they're done for children that are born without an ear.
NELSON: Which Rose, a former Army sergeant, says it's an easier procedure than the one he is doing on Abdul Ghani. He spent hours separating skin from Abdul Ghani's skull to craft the pocket in which to place rib cartilage for the new ear.
Dr. ROSE: This first plane at the toughest. We're in no hurry. You'll get a good night sleep. And you're going to have a good time. Trim right underneath the hair follicle there. Excellent. Very good.
NELSON: Rose is talking to Afghan Dr. Ulfad Hashini(ph), a surgeon he's training to do these sorts of procedures. But how often the hospital will be able to operate on the estimated 200 Afghan workers who've lost body parts to Taliban knives is another matter. The Pentagon recently rejected the Kabul hospital's request for $430,000 to pay for a year's worth of these procedures. That leaves CURE stuck paying the $3,600 it cost to do each operation.
Kline says his hospital is asking the patients to contribute as much as they can. Abdul Ghani will pay $200.
Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Kabul.
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