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Exiting Afghanistan, And What We Leave Behind

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Last weekend, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that 1,000 more U.S. troops than originally planned would be staying in Afghanistan in 2015. One American who won't be staying behind is NPR's own Sean Carberry. He's just home after covering Afghanistan for the past two-and-a-half years. Good afternoon, Sean.

SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: Good afternoon, Arun.

RATH: So the U.S. has drawn down its troop levels, but the latest violence reminds us that Afghanistan is still in rough shape. How much have things really changed in the two-and-a-half years since you've been there?

CARBERRY: In terms of the violence, it's on a macro level largely the same. It's moved around in different places. There are some provinces that were more secure when I first got there that are less secure now.

Kabul saw a nasty string of attacks over the month of November. It's very clear that the militants are able to carry out attacks in Kabul on a fairly frequent basis at this point. So on the security level, again, there are spots where some places had been really nasty for a long time have been cleared out. But then other areas are still bad. So there's a lot of fighting going on and huge casualties now for the Afghan army and police, who are in the lead for security at this point.

RATH: You spoke earlier this week about new construction that you were seeing in your neighborhood. Is there any sense that people are more hopeful now than they were two-and-a-half years ago?

CARBERRY: There's certainly been - there was an increase in hope right after the election was finally resolved and President Ashraf Ghani was inaugurated. Some people are starting to get a little impatient already. The new cabinet has still yet to be formed nearly three months now after the election was finalized. The security problems in Kabul over the last month have again raised more concerns among people.

So, you know, there's some optimism, but that's kind of tempered a bit, and people are still waiting to see when is this government going to be finalized and when are they going to really start to see some structural changes in the country, whether it's the economy or the security, both of which are really struggling at this point.

RATH: We know Afghanistan is not an easy place to report from, but I'm curious what's the most positive thing that you take away from your time there? What are you going to miss?

CARBERRY: I think in most situations like this you miss the people. You miss the - first, the the local Afghans who worked for us in the office. We had a great staff of people there - incredibly helpful, incredibly loyal - made my job and my life there much better. Then beyond that, the other people that you meet, you interact with -whether it's Afghan government officials or Afghan journalists.

So there are some fantastic people there who are really trying to make a difference in the country and are very committed. And that's the kind of thing that keeps you going - gives you hope that eventually these people will prevail.

RATH: NPR's Sean Carberry just wrapped up to two-and-a-half years in Afghanistan and he's now back in the U.S. Sean, welcome home and thanks.

CARBERRY: You're welcome, Arun. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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