Guantanamo: An Oral History

On Thanksgiving weekend, I received a phone call informing me that we had just captured approximately 300 al-Qaeda and Taliban. I asked all our assistant secretaries and regional bureaus to canvass literally the world to begin to look at what options we had as to where a detention facility could be established. We began to eliminate places for different reasons. One day, in one of our meetings, we sat there puzzled as places continued to be eliminated. An individual from the Department of Justice effectively blurted out, What about Guantánamo?

Pvt. Danny Chen, 1992–2011

A glimpse into the life and death of a soldier who committed suicide while on duty in Afghanistan:

The Army recently announced that it was charging eight soldiers — an officer and seven enlisted men — in connection with Danny Chen’s death. Five of the eight have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide, and the coming court-martial promises a fuller picture of the harrowing abuse Chen endured. But even the basic details are enough to terrify: What could be worse than being stuck at a remote outpost, in the middle of a combat zone, tormented by your superiors, the very same people who are supposed to be looking out for you? And why did a nice, smart kid from Chinatown, who’d always shied from conflict and confrontation, seek out an environment ruled by the laws of aggression?

The Ally From Hell

Inside the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan:

The U.S. government has lied to itself, and to its citizens, about the nature and actions of successive Pakistani governments. Pakistani behavior over the past 20 years has rendered the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism effectively meaningless.

The All-American

In Afghanistan and other zones of international crisis with John Kerry:

Why, then, does Kerry bother? Why is he racing back and forth to put out the fires being set by a serial arsonist? I asked him about this on the short flight from Kabul to Islamabad. Kerry tried to put the best possible face on what he had learned. Despite the warlords in Kabul, he said, Karzai had appointed some talented officials at the provincial and district levels. “It’s a mixed bag,” he concluded gamely. Kerry knew Karzai’s failings as well as anyone, but he was not prepared to abandon Afghanistan’s president, because he was not prepared to abandon Afghanistan. But why not?

Held by the Taliban

NYT journalist David Rohde’s alternately terrifying and absurd first person account of his kidnapping en route to an interview in Southern Afghanistan and the subsequent seven months he, along with his translator and driver, spent in captivity in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

  1. 7 Months, 10 Days in Captivity

  2. Inside the Islamic Emirate

  3. ‘You Have Atomic Bombs, but We Have Suicide Bombers.’

  4. A Drone Strike and Dwindling Hope

  5. A Rope and a Prayer

  6. Epilogue