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Afghanistan--State of the Nation

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Last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced he's likely to urge President Bush to send more troops to Afghanistan to fight the resurgent Taliban.

There are approximately 24,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, 11,000 serve under NATO command. The U.S. had hoped to hand the war off to NATO forces in the near future, but some politicians and experts wonder if another increase would raise questions about the future of the five-year-old conflict.

U.S. military officers in Afghanistan maintain that the Taliban have already re-grouped, at least to the point where they were able to launch more attacks on U.S. and allied forces than in 2005.

A U.S. troop increase in Afghanistan would come on top of President Bush's decision to send another 21,500 soldiers and Marines to Iraq. While most U.S. politicians seem to be against the President's plan to add troops in Iraq, there seems to be a consensus to send more troops to Afghanistan.

Since the 2001 U.S. invasion, Afghanistan has struggled to build a national government, attract international investment and rid the country of Taliban extremists trying to regain power.

More than 4,000 people were killed in violent incidents in Afghanistan last year. Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has vowed to step up attacks against Afghan and NATO forces this year.

Sarah Chayes is a familiar voice to many listeners. She's most known as a former Foreign Correspondent for National Public Radio. Sarah also reported from Paris, and the Middle East, Serbia and Bosnia.

After covering the Taliban's fall in Afghanistan, Sarah left journalism to work on development projects. She now lives in Kandahar. Sarah founded and runs the company Arghand. It's a co-operative the produces skin products whose objective is to help southern Afghanistan wean off of its dependence on opium poppy. She also works closely with the group Afghans for Civil Society, an NGO dedicated to democracy building, development and an independent media. Sarah's recent book is The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan after the Taliban.

Sarah currently resides in Afghanistan and works closely with the group Afghans for Civil Society.
Sarah wrote The Punishment of Virtue in part to explain
details about the fall of Kandahar she didn't get to explain in her reporting.

Last year, President Bush hosted Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf and Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai for an intimate White House dinner to help them hash out their differences, but the two leaders wouldn't shake hands. At the time, President Musharraf was a media darling while he toured America to plug his book.

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