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Increasing Dangers For Reporters In Afghanistan

New York Times foreign correspondent Dexter Filkins recently returned from his latest reporting trip to Afghanistan, where he broke the story that President Hamid Karzai and his aides have been regularly receiving bags of cash from Iran.

"It's one of those stories where if you're a reporter, everybody goes from flat-out denying [that they were receiving cash] to finally admitting it -- and then denying certain details, and then admitting the details," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "So it's hard to know exactly what's true. But the estimates I got from people very close to President Karzai were anywhere from $1 million at a time to $6 million at a time."

Filkins says it's anybody's guess what the Afghan government is using the money for -- because the cash flow from Iran is not built into the country's budget.

"I think what is interesting about it is that President Karzai accepts the money," he says. "Here we discover that this same president, the one who the United States and the West are sacrificing so much for, is in cahoots with somebody whose interests in that region are in direct opposition to ours. ... [Iran is] training the Taliban, they're supporting the Taliban [and] they're kind of working against the overall goal of the Americans and NATO there, which is to set up a stable government that can hold the country [up,] by itself, so that we all can go home. And the Iranians are working against that."

Filkins, who is based in Kabul, says the situation for journalists and soldiers in Afghanistan has been growing increasingly dire, particularly since the U.S. deployed 30,000 additional troops to the region in July.

"It's incredibly dangerous. The level of violence in Helmand and Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, where the bulk of American forces are and where they're really pressing the offensive, has really, really risen as the troops have gone into the areas where frankly, they haven't been before," he says. "So they're having to fight their way into these areas. So it's become extremely difficult for us to cover. We still do. But it's just at much greater risk."

Filkins was previously based in Iraq. In 2005, he received the George Polk Award for war coverage for his reporting in Fallujah. He was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2002, for his dispatches from Afghanistan. His book, The Forever War, is based on his work in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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