NPR: Quil Lawrence

David Aquila ("Quil") Lawrence is an award-winning correspondent for NPR News, covering the millions of Americans who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as they transition to life back at home.

Previously, Lawrence served as NPR's Bureau Chief in Kabul. He joined NPR in 2009 as Baghdad Bureau Chief – capping off ten years of reporting in Iraq and all the bordering countries. That experience made the foundation for his first book Invisible Nation: How the Kurds' Quest for Statehood is Shaping Iraq and the Middle East, published in 2008.

Before coming to NPR, Lawrence was based in Jerusalem, as Middle East correspondent for The World, a BBC/PRI co-production. For the BBC he covered the fall of the Taliban in December 2001 and returned to Afghanistan periodically to report on development, the drug trade and insurgency.

Lawrence began his career as a freelancer for NPR and various newspapers while based in Bogota, Colombia, covering Latin America. Other reporting trips took him to Sudan, Morocco, Cuba, Pakistan and Iran.

A native of Maine, Lawrence studied history at Brandeis University, with concentrations in the Middle East and Latin America. He is fluent in Spanish and conversant in Arabic.



Thu October 20, 2011

Afghan Civilians Allegedly Forced Onto Mined Roads

Afghanistan's Panjwai district, southwest of Kandahar city, was a Taliban stronghold until the U.S. troop surge in 2010 began to displace the insurgents.

Allauddin Khan AP

Villagers from a violent part of southern Afghanistan say that Afghan troops, along with several American mentors, forced civilians to march ahead of soldiers on roads where the Taliban were believed to have planted bombs and landmines.

No one was hurt. But if the allegations are true, the act would appear to violate the Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of civilians. The episode also raises questions about how civilians are caught between the two sides in the war.

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Fri October 7, 2011

In Afghanistan, Performance Artist Packs Up His Bling

Aman Mojedidi, who grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to Afghanistan in 2003 because he thought his homeland was finally on the mend. The guerrilla artist is also known as the Jihadi Gangsta, and he has provoked controversy and laughter with his work.

Courtesy of Aman Mojedidi

Performance artist Aman Mojedidi moved from the U.S. to Afghanistan in 2003, as one of what he says were many Afghan-Americans and Afghan-Europeans who thought their homeland was finally on the mend.

"It was really part of that wave of hyphenated Afghans and internationals wanting to come to Afghanistan, post-Taliban, [to] do something, rebuild, reconstruct, that kind of thing," he says.

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Sun October 2, 2011

Karzai Breaks Off Talks With The Taliban

In a surprising about-face, Afghan President Hamid Karzai appears to be abandoning his government's long-standing effort to hold peace talks with the Taliban in Pakistan, saying they aren't serious about negotiations. NPR's Quil Lawrence reports.


Fri September 30, 2011

Afghan Factions Vie For Position Amid Civil War Fears

Originally published on Fri September 30, 2011 2:54 pm

Afghans hold portraits of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, as they shout anti-government slogans during a demonstration in Kabul on Tuesday. Last week's killing of Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik, was the latest targeting his party and it has stoked fears of increased factionalism.
Shah Marai AFP/Getty Images

Last week's assassination of the former Afghan president, Burhanuddin Rabbani, not only dashed hopes for peace negotiations, it also increased the talk of civil war.

It came at the time that American troops are preparing to begin a gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan, exposing deep anxiety among Afghans about what lies ahead.

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Mon September 26, 2011

Killing Deals Another Blow To Afghan Peace Talks

Originally published on Mon September 26, 2011 8:22 pm

Afghans carry the coffin of Afghanistan High Peace Council head and former President Burhanuddin Rabbani during his burial ceremony in Kabul, Sept. 23. A suicide bomber assassinated Rabbani on Sept. 20, which further complicates the thorny issue of negotiating with the Taliban.
Ahmad Masood AFP/Getty Images

Afghanistan buried a former president last week, but there is concern in Kabul that something else may have been buried as well: the peace process. In nearly two years since the U.S. opened the prospect of negotiations with the Taliban, progress has been hard to discern.

The assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was also the head of Afghanistan's High Peace Council, may have quashed any negotiations that were under way. It also may have given new strength to those who never supported the idea of talking with the Taliban.

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Mon September 26, 2011

Afghan Women Fight Back, Preserve Shelters

Originally published on Mon September 26, 2011 10:09 am

Sakina sits with her 18-month-old son, Shafiq, at a women's shelter in Bamiyan, in central Afghanistan, last October. Sakina spent seven months in prison for leaving a forced marriage. The Afghan government recently backed down from a plan to take control of women's shelters, and women's groups are hailing it as a victory.
Paula Bronstein Getty Images

In Afghanistan, women's groups are claiming a rare victory.

Last winter, the government was planning to bring battered women's shelters under government control.

Women's rights advocates sprang into action, complaining that the new rules would turn shelters into virtual prisons for women who had run away from home because of abuse. But after a flurry of media attention, the Afghan government agreed to re-examine the issue. And this month, President Hamid Karzai's Cabinet quietly approved a new draft that has support from women's groups.

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Mon September 19, 2011

Afghan Parliament Still Stymied By Election Dispute

Protesters in Kabul, Afghanistan, demonstrate against the results of last September's parliamentary poll, Jan. 23, 2011. A year after the elections were held, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and lawmakers are still fighting over the results, and the Parliament has accomplished very little.
Musadeq Sadeq AP

Last weekend marked a milestone for Afghanistan's Parliament that should have been cause for celebration: It's been a year since Afghans braved the threat of insurgent violence to go to the polls to pick a new legislature.

But a dispute over election results has smoldered between President Hamid Karzai and lawmakers ever since. And the resulting gridlock has prevented the new parliament from passing a single notable law, confirming any of the president's ministers, or giving any oversight to the president or his cabinet.

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Sun September 11, 2011

Bomb Wounds Dozens Of U.S. Soldiers In Afghanistan

At least 77 American soldiers are wounded after a truck bomb targeted a base west of Kabul. Two separate roadside bombs have killed 10 Afghan civilians.

At an American military base in Wardak Province, a truck full of firewood rammed into the main gate before exploding in flames and shrapnel. Military officials said a blast wall absorbed most of the impact, but nearly 100 Afghan and American personnel suffered injuries. Wardak borders the Afghan capital, Kabul, but the province is considered to be partially under Taliban control.

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Fri September 9, 2011
Reflecting On Sept. 11, 2001

In Afghanistan, Assessing A Rebel Leader's Legacy

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:26 am

Shown here in 1997, the "Lion of the Panjshir," Ahmad Shah Massoud (left), fought against the Soviets in the 1980s, was a central figure in the Afghan civil war of the '90s and led the resistance against the Taliban until his death on Sept. 9, 2001, the victim of al-Qaida suicide bombers.
Emmanuel Dunand AFP/Getty Images

Ten years ago Friday, a team of al-Qaida agents carried out an assassination that was the first step in their plan leading to the Sept. 11 attacks. In the north of Afghanistan, suicide bombers posing as journalists killed Ahmad Shah Massoud, the most famous leader of Afghan resistance against Taliban rule.

Today, posters of Massoud still adorn shops around northern Afghanistan, and admirers held a huge commemoration of him Friday near his home.

But 10 years after his death, Massoud's legacy has been overshadowed by a grueling war that grinds on with no end in sight.

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Thu September 8, 2011
Reflecting On Sept. 11, 2001

For Young Afghans, History's Lessons Lost?

Originally published on Thu September 8, 2011 10:37 pm

Afghanistan is a country of the young: According to best estimates, at least half the population was under age 10 when the Sept. 11 attacks took place a decade ago. Now, a generation of Afghans has very little knowledge about the events that so transformed their country. In this photo, Afghan children gather for school in Old Kabul in August 2010.
Yuri Cortez AFP/Getty Images

Afghanistan is, perhaps, the country most transformed by the Sept. 11 attacks. And yet most Afghans have no clear memories of those world-changing events because, according to best estimates, most of the country's current population was under the age of 10 at that time.

This generation of Afghans has gone from having no television or Internet, to having access to a torrent of media information without much experience filtering truth from rumor.

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Fri September 2, 2011
Reflecting On Sept. 11, 2001

In Afghanistan, Reviewing A Decade Of Promises

U.S. Marines patrol with Afghan forces through a harvested poppy field in Northern Marjah in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province. Ten years after the fall of the Taliban, progress on U.S. pledges to help Afghanistan is mixed.
David Gilkey NPR/Redux

People living in Afghanistan 10 years ago had little electricity, few radios and almost no televisions to alert them of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington. The news didn't really reach across the country until the American bombing campaign and invasion began a month later. The fall of the Taliban regime at the end of 2001 and the flood of international aid raised hope in Afghanistan.

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Wed August 31, 2011

Training Afghans To Take Over Bomb-Defusing Efforts

U.S. soldiers check for land mines on a canal running through Highway 1 in Afghanistan's Kandahar province, Aug. 6. Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, are the Taliban's weapon of choice and are the leading killer of civilians and soldiers in Afghanistan.
Romeo Gacad AFP/Getty Images

August brought a grim new statistic from Afghanistan: The death of at least 66 U.S. soldiers, making it the deadliest month for U.S. troops in nearly 10 years of war.

Nearly half of those casualties were the result of the rare shootdown of a Chinook helicopter packed with U.S. Navy SEALs. Of the remaining casualties, many were caused by what the military calls improvised explosive devices, or IEDS — homemade land mines, bombs and booby traps.

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Mon August 29, 2011

Afghan President Pardons Would-Be Suicide Bombers

Incarcerated children sit at the Kabul Juvenile Rehabilitation Center May 18, in Kabul, Afghanistan. The four boys were believed to have been recruited by the Taliban as suicide bombers. In an end-of-Ramadan tradition, President Hamid Karzai recently ordered the release of two dozen children held as suspected suicide bombers.
Paula Bronstein Getty Images

As part of the traditional celebration of the end of Ramadan, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has pardoned prisoners from Kabul's juvenile detention center. This time it was two dozen youths who had been arrested for planned or attempted suicide bomb attacks, and many were under the age of 12.

Karzai presented the captured suicide bombers on national television — the youngest only 8 years old.

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Fri July 22, 2011

The Taliban's Likely Negotiator With The U.S.

Tayyeb Agha at a Taliban press conference in November 2001 in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Patrick Aventurier/Gamma Getty

After months of rumors, most observers in Kabul now believe that American officials have met with a Taliban envoy face to face. The most likely interlocutor is Tayyeb Agha, the head of the Taliban political committee and one of a handful of people in the world said to have direct contact with Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban.

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Thu July 14, 2011

U.S. Quietly Halts Scholarship For Afghan Students

Former President George W. Bush speaks to student from the Youth Exchange and Study program at the White House in 2005. The program began in 2004 and ended for Afghan students this year after half of those enrolled fled to Canada.
Alex Wong Getty Images

The U.S. State Department has funded international student exchanges for decades, looking to form lifelong bonds and increase understanding across borders.

One program brought hundreds of Afghan high school students to small communities in the U.S. beginning in 2004.

But this year, the U.S. has quietly suspended the popular youth exchange. The reason? Fear of a dark future in Afghanistan was prompting too many of the students to bail out of the program and seek asylum elsewhere.

Deciding To Flee To Canada

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Wed July 13, 2011

Poppy Crops Set To Bloom If Afghanistan Aid Withers

An Afghan holds a bouquet of poppies near the city of Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Majid Saeedi Getty Images

In case you missed it, June 26 was the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Afghanistan, the world's largest provider of opium poppy, did mark the occasion — with a bonfire.

Standing near an 11-ton mountain of seized opium, hashish and alcohol on the outskirts of Kabul, Gen. Baz Mohammad Ahmadi welcomed officials to the drug-burning ceremony.

Ahmadi, the country's deputy minister for counternarcotics, appealed for a strong international effort against narcotrafficking. He also asked for more cooperation from his own government on the issue.

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Tue June 28, 2011
NPR Story

Militants Strike Iconic Kabul Hotel



From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

In Afghanistan's capital Kabul tonight, a group of suicide bombers armed with heavy weapons attacked the Inter-Continental Hotel which is popular with foreigners and Afghan VIPs. Loud explosions and gunfire could be heard across the city as the battle raged for hours.

(Soundbite of gunfire)

NATO helicopters were called in to respond to the siege.

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Tue June 28, 2011

Fraud Ruling Throws Afghan Parliament Into Disarray

President Obama's announcement last week that U.S. troops will begin leaving Afghanistan this summer has prompted questions about whether the country's democracy can stand on its own.

Those questions come as the Afghan government has been thrown into disarray. A tribunal appointed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai has revoked 25 percent of the seats awarded last September, reviving a dispute over the parliamentary elections.

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Mon June 20, 2011

Afghans In Helmand Worry About U.S. Withdrawal

Six locations in Afghanistan are scheduled to be handed over to Afghan control next month. The most daring location is the capital of Helmand province. U.S. Marines are just now assessing the security gains they've made in Helmand. How ready are Afghan troops for the hand over, and, how much of the area will really be under Afghan control?


Sun June 12, 2011

Blame For Afghan Casualties Falls On The West

The UN is planning to release civilian casualty figures for the month of May this weekend, and the toll could be the highest yet. NPR's Quil Lawrence reports that even though three-quarters of the victims were killed by the Taliban or other militants, it is the U.S. and its NATO allies that bear the brunt of the criticism from Afghans.


Thu June 9, 2011

U.N. Tries To Clear The Way For Afghan Settlement

Rumors about peace talks between the U.S. and the Afghan Taliban have been simmering even as the summer fighting season heats up. While the substance of any talks remain unconfirmed, the United Nations may take action this month to clear away obstacles to a political settlement. U.N. officials say they want to be ready to take advantage of any opportunity for a breakthrough even in the midst of heavy fighting.


Wed May 18, 2011

Pakistani Workers' Land Of Opportunity: Afghanistan?

A Pakistani worker labors on a machine in a factory in Kabul, producing boots for the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army. Higher wages and, in some cases, better security in Afghanistan have drawn workers from Pakistan.
Shah Marai AFP/Getty Images

It's not unusual for laborers the world over to cross borders, sometimes illegally, to find a safer environment and better wages. But it is strange when their land of opportunity is Afghanistan.

It may be a sign of economic and political instability in neighboring Pakistan that manual laborers are sneaking across into Afghanistan, where wages are double and, in some cases, security is better.

That level of desperation has many fearing that Pakistan may be holding on to stability just as tenuously as Afghanistan.

Day Laborers

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Thu May 12, 2011

Afghan Raids Common, But What If Target's Wrong?

The daring assault that killed Osama bin Laden last week has been seen by many as a vindication of the tactic of "targeted killing," which Gen. David Petraeus has utilized at an unprecedented level in Afghanistan.

U.S. military sources say the tactic has turned back the Taliban's momentum. But critics say it can be counterproductive — especially when mistakes are made.

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Mon May 9, 2011

U.S.-Pakistan Flareup Threatens Troops' Supply Route

In the aftermath of the raid in a Pakistani garrison town that killed Osama bin Laden, Congress' anger toward Pakistan is growing. Some lawmakers want to suspend U.S. aid to Pakistan.

But American military commanders are concerned about the potential impact on the war in Afghanistan. Most of the supplies for U.S. forces in that land-locked country are shipped in by truck through Pakistan.

A Tough Border To Cross

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Fri May 6, 2011

Afghans Rally Against Compromising With Taliban

There is no clear sign yet that the death of Osama bin Laden has changed U.S. policy in Afghanistan. There is also no sign it has had any effect on the Taliban movement, which so far has been strangely silent about the death of its one-time ally and benefactor.

But that's not stopping fevered speculation in Afghanistan about how bin Laden's killing this week might help or hurt efforts to negotiate with the Taliban.

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Mon May 2, 2011
NPR Story

Afghans React To Osama Bin Laden's Death

Afghanistan hosted Osama bin Laden at the time of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Most Afghans reacted positively to the news that bin Laden has been killed.


Sun April 17, 2011

Negotiating Afghan Peace With The Taliban, Quietly

Violence is increasing in Afghanistan as the winter snows melt, opening the mountain passes from Pakistan. There has also been a flurry of activity around the possibility of peace talks with the Taliban — which most American and Afghan observers agree may be the only way out of the decade-old war.

The government of Afghanistan, as well as U.S. military leaders, have announced their support for reconciliation, but real negotiations still seem a long way off.

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Tue April 12, 2011

Accusations Of Corruption Rampant In Afghanistan

As the U.S. tightens its belt, some in Congress are calling for more scrutiny of the budgets Americans are boosting abroad.

Last week, Vermont Democrat Peter Welch called on Congress to investigate corruption in Afghanistan, where the U.S. is spending billions of dollars. It might have surprised him to know that a similar conversation was happening in the Afghan legislature.

In a moment of candor, Afghanistan's deputy attorney general said he had arrest warrants for high-ranking government officials, but he feared arresting them.

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Thu April 7, 2011

Airmen On Ground Aid Effort To Avert Afghan Deaths

Six thousand feet up a mountain in Afghanistan's Laghman province, Tech. Sgt. John Oliver is leaning on one elbow in the dirt, sheltering himself from the wind and trying to block the glow coming from his video monitor, the only light under a moonless, midnight sky.

The screen is showing him the view from an F-16, thousands of feet overhead.

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