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.

Pages

Election 2012
5:04 am
Fri November 2, 2012

N.Y., N.J. Scramble To Make Voting Possible

Originally published on Fri November 2, 2012 11:43 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Along with other post-Hurricane Sandy reconstruction, New York and New Jersey are trying to reassemble their election preparations. The storm affected hundreds of polling stations. Neither of these reliably Democratic states was poised to decide the presidential election, but public officials are still scrambling to make voting possible for millions of people in the evacuation zones. NPR's Quil Lawrence reports.

Read more
The Impact of War
5:03 am
Wed October 24, 2012

Vet Walks On New Legs, With A Little Help From Mom

Nick Staback, who lost both of his legs to a bomb in Afghanistan, talks with his mother, Maria Staback, in Scranton, Pa. Maria Staback took a leave of absence from her job to move in with her son while he was recuperating at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, D.C.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 2:58 pm

On furlough from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center this summer, 21-year-old Nick Staback lounges on his parents' back porch in Scranton, Pa., taking potshots at sparrows with a replica sniper rifle. The long plastic gun fires pellets that mostly just scare the birds away.

It's been a tough year for Staback since his last foot patrol in Afghanistan.

"We [were] just channeling down a beaten trail, of course, you just don't know what's on it," he says. "We had the mine sweepers out front and everything like that."

Read more
Election 2012
4:52 am
Tue October 16, 2012

Veterans Want Solutions To Unemployment Issue

Veterans applaud at an Oct. 8 campaign event in Swanton, Ohio, for Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. Health care and unemployment are among veterans' chief concerns this election season, and both the Obama and the Romney campaigns have offered solutions.
Mary Altaffer AP

Originally published on Wed October 17, 2012 10:35 am

Military veterans across the country have a whole range of concerns this election season, from the high rate of suicide to special challenges for female vets. But like everyone else, they're especially concerned with health care and jobs.

The nation's obligations to some 2 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan pose a challenge for the next commander in chief. Unemployment for post-Sept. 11 vets is about 2 percentage points worse than the national average, and veterans want solutions.

Read more
It's All Politics
3:31 am
Thu September 20, 2012

Military Vote Seen As A Key To Capturing Virginia

Mitt Romney takes the stage at a campaign rally at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, Va., on Sept. 8.
Brian Snyder Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu September 20, 2012 8:38 pm

Both presidential campaigns are focusing on just a few swing states, and the relatively few remaining undecided voters. One of those states is Virginia, where a key swing constituency is military veterans.

Troops and veterans have long been considered a natural part of the Republican base. But President Obama is pushing hard for the veterans' vote to help him in a state he captured in 2008.

Read more
Author Interviews
3:29 am
Tue September 11, 2012

Stories From A New Generation Of American Soldiers

Yellow Birds book cover detail

Originally published on Tue September 11, 2012 9:57 am

Iraq War veteran Brian Castner opens his new memoir, The Long Walk, with a direct and disturbing warning:

"The first thing you should know about me is that I'm Crazy," he writes. "I haven't always been. Until that one day, the day I went Crazy, I was fine. Or I thought I was. Not anymore."

More than 10 years since a new generation of Americans went into combat, the soldiers themselves are starting to write the story of war. Three recent releases show how their experiences give them the authority to describe the war, fictionalize it and even satirize it.

Read more
Sports
2:59 pm
Fri September 7, 2012

A Year After War Wound, Vet Wins Paralympic Gold

Lt. Brad Snyder mounts the starting blocks while training on his starting technique. Snyder was permanently blinded last year by an IED in Afghanistan, and is now competing in the Paralympics in London.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri September 7, 2012 10:06 pm

The first thing you need to know about Navy Lt. Brad Snyder is that he's a bit intense.

If you go to the U.S. Naval Academy, swim competitively, and make the cut for the Navy's elite bomb-disposal squad, you're probably going to be the competitive type.

"Crossfit, surfing, biking, running, swimming, you name it I'm into it. Rock climbing," says Snyder.

The second thing you should know is that Snyder plans to continue doing all these things — even though he's now blind.

Read more
Sports
3:18 am
Thu August 30, 2012

Doing It To Win: Veterans Raise Bar At Paralympics

U.S. rowers Rob Jones and Oksana Masters train at the Rivanna Reservoir in Charlottesville, Va. The pair will compete in adaptive rowing at the London Paralympics this week. Jones, a former U.S. Marine, lost both legs to an improvised land mine in southern Afghanistan.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Thu August 30, 2012 11:22 am

On a placid summer morning last month, before the Virginia heat could hit them, a former U.S. Marine and his partner lifted their rowing scull into the glassy water of the Rivanna River, near Charlottesville.

"First thing I do is take these legs off," said Rob Jones, who like his rowing partner, Oksana Masters, is a double, above-the-knee amputee. They're the U.S. team for mixed-doubles rowing at the 2012 London Paralympics, which started Wednesday.

Read more
Around the Nation
10:20 am
Fri August 3, 2012

A New Generation Of Vets Faces Challenges At Home

Homeless veterans, their families and volunteers stand in line for food at "Stand Down," an annual event hosted by the Veterans Village of San Diego. The VA estimates that about 67,000 vets are homeless.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri August 3, 2012 6:06 pm

Homeless veterans of the Vietnam War have been a face of American poverty for decades, and now some veterans of a younger generation are dealing with the same difficult issues.

"I had my apartment up until 2011," says Joshua, a 28-year-old Navy vet, who asked not to give his last name because of the stigma of being homeless. "[I] couldn't keep up with the rent; I did a little couch surfing and then ended up on the street for a while."

Read more
Politics
6:39 am
Mon July 23, 2012

Obama, Romney Court Veterans In Key States

Originally published on Tue July 24, 2012 2:52 pm

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, we're also following the presidential campaign this Monday morning. We have noted on this program how many Americans have not been directly touched by the wars of the past decade. But at the same time, millions have. Well over two million American troops have rotated through Iraq and Afghanistan.

Read more
Afghanistan
4:41 am
Wed May 23, 2012

Afghan Public Protection Force Profile

A U.S. soldier watches members of the Afghan Public Protection Force arrive at the transition ceremony on the outskirts of the Afghan capital Kabul on March 15. The APPF replaces all private security contractors in the country.
Ahmad Jamshid AP

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 9:54 am

Nearly two years ago, Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered that gun-toting private security companies in his country be brought under state control. But the Afghan force to replace the foreign-funded contractors is off to a rocky start.

According to the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the new force will increase security costs for USAID projects and could even shut some of them down, at a loss of about $899 million. USAID in Kabul disagrees, and the dispute has gone public.

Read more
Afghanistan
2:53 am
Thu May 10, 2012

Afghan Goal: Toning Down The Radical Preachers

The Afghan government wants Muslim preachers to tone down sermons that often criticize the presence of American troops and praise the Taliban. Here, an Afghan youth drags his sheep past a group of men praying at a mosque in Kabul in November 2011.
Muhammed Muheisen AP

Originally published on Thu May 10, 2012 4:48 am

The ministry that governs religious affairs in Afghanistan has announced what some are calling a "three strikes" policy.

It's a warning directed at Muslim clerics, or imams, accused of inciting violence in their Friday sermons. Imams across the country routinely condemn the U.S. presence in Afghanistan and speak in favor of the Taliban.

Read more
Afghanistan
4:00 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

For Afghan Soldiers, A Battle For Respect

Manullah Ahmadzai, 27, lost the sight in his right eye while serving as a front-line soldier in the Afghan military. Ahmadzai is one of many soldiers who have been severely injured and say promised government benefits don't always arrive.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 7:07 pm

Last month, the Taliban carried out their largest coordinated attack across Afghanistan, including three sites inside the capital Kabul. It took an 18-hour gunfight to end the assault.

But even as they took cover, Kabul residents saw something new: their own soldiers taking the lead, with limited help from NATO. Television footage showed Afghan soldiers moving confidently into the building where the militants were holed up, avoiding reckless gunfire that might have endangered civilians in the crowded city.

Read more
Afghanistan
3:09 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Facing Death, Afghan Girl Runs To U.S. Military

Afghan women pass U.S. soldiers near Bagram Air Base outside Kabul in 2010. While conditions for Afghan women have improved over the past decade, but they still face many restrictions, as well as abuses like honor killings.
Joel Saget AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 10:44 am

In a remote part of Afghanistan early last year, a girl was sentenced to death. Her crime was possession of a cellphone. Her executioners were to be her brothers. They suspected her of talking on the phone with a boy. The girl, in her late teens, had dishonored the family, her brothers said.

"My older brother took the cellphone from me and beat me very badly. It was dinnertime. They told me that they would execute me after dinner. They said to me this would be my last meal," says "Lina," a pseudonym.

Read more
Afghanistan
4:42 am
Mon April 23, 2012

Deal Reached On U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership

Originally published on Mon April 23, 2012 6:36 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Read more
Afghanistan
4:00 am
Mon April 16, 2012

Taliban Claims Responsibility For Afghan Attacks

Transcript

LYNN NEARY, HOST:

What the Taliban are calling the start of their spring offensive kept security forces across Afghanistan fighting throughout Sunday and into this morning. Officials say 36 insurgents were killed in Kabul and three other eastern provinces. Three civilians died in the attacks, and eight members of the police and army were killed. American officials are praising Afghan forces, but questions remain about how the insurgents were able to infiltrate the most secure parts of the capital. NPR's Quil Lawrence reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)

Read more
Afghanistan
11:13 am
Thu March 29, 2012

Dreams Of A Mining Future On Hold In Afghanistan

Afghan miners in a makeshift emerald mine in the Panjshir Valley in 2010. Reports suggest that Afghanistan is sitting on significant deposits of oil, gas, copper, iron, gold and coal, as well as a range of precious gems like emeralds and rubies. Currently these minerals are largely untapped and are still being mapped.
Majid Saeedi Getty Images

Originally published on Fri May 17, 2013 5:27 pm

Afghanistan faces the daunting prospect of a drastic reduction in foreign aid, which currently makes up about 90 percent of the country's revenue. Some have seen an economic life raft in geological surveys that indicate huge deposits of copper, iron, uranium and lithium in various parts of the country. But multinational mining firms have been slow to invest in Afghanistan — not least because of questions about stability after American troops draw down.

Read more
Afghanistan
4:00 am
Tue March 20, 2012

Afghan Farmer Lost 11 Relatives In Shooting Rampage

Afghans gather outside a military base in the Panjwai district in Afghanistan on March 11, after 16 civilians were killed in a massacre allegedly carried out by a U.S. soldier.
Allauddin Khan AP

Originally published on Tue March 20, 2012 5:49 pm

Afghans say they're so inured to civilians killed in wars that they bury their dead and move on. That's not so easy for Muhammad Wazir. He lost his mother, his wife, a sister-in-law, a brother, a nephew, his four daughters and two of his sons in last week's mass shooting in two villages.

"My little boy, Habib Shah, is the only one left alive, and I love him very much," says Wazir.

Read more
Afghanistan
8:00 am
Sun March 18, 2012

Will Massacre In Kandahar Be A Policy Tipping Point?

Originally published on Sun March 18, 2012 9:57 am

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

In Afghanistan, the massacre of 16 unarmed Afghan civilians, allegedly by a U.S. service member, is the latest in a string of events which may have shifted the dynamic between the Afghan people and the U.S.-led Army that's been occupying the country for a decade.

Read more
Afghanistan
2:43 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

For Afghan Policewomen, Sex Abuse Is A Job Hazard

Afghan female police officers are trained by Afghan police and NATO soldiers in eastern Afghanistan's Ghazni province on Sept. 12. In the culturally conservative country, women serving in the security forces say they face systemic sexual coercion and even rape by male colleagues.
STR EPA/Landov

Originally published on Thu March 8, 2012 8:33 pm

The image of Afghan women wearing police and army uniforms is meant to inspire pride and hope for a future where the rights of women will be protected in Afghanistan.

So why would female police officers in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif be ashamed to admit they wear the badge?

"Except my very close family members, no one really knows that I am a police officer," said one woman at a NATO training session.

Read more
Afghanistan
4:00 am
Wed February 29, 2012

After Quran Burnings, U.S. To Review Afghan Mission

Originally published on Wed February 29, 2012 11:02 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The deadly violence in Afghanistan over the burning of Qurans by the U.S. military has brought the American-led NATO mission to a crossroads. Among the dead have been four Americans, two of them by an Afghan policeman inside what was thought to be a highly secure government ministry building. The U.S. pulled all of its advisors from those ministries. The entire international community is on virtual lockdown.

Read more
Afghanistan
5:51 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

U.S. Apology Fails To Stop Afghan Riots

Afghan demonstrators burn an effigy of President Obama and shout anti-U.S. slogans in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Wednesday, Feb. 22. Afghans have been rioting for three days after word that several Qurans were desecrated at a NATO base. The U.S. says the burning of the Qurans was accidental.
Noorullah Shirzada AFP/Getty Images

President Obama apologized in a letter and Afghan President Hamid Karzai appealed for calm.

But that was not enough to keep Afghans from protesting violently for a third day following word that several copies of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, were burned at a large NATO base outside Kabul.

The latest incident resembled other cases in recent years, where rumors that a Quran was desecrated — even thousands of miles away in Florida or Guantanamo Bay — ignited deadly riots in Afghanistan.

Read more
Health
12:01 am
Mon February 20, 2012

Army Moves To Act Fast On Battlefield Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries are most often caused by powerful blasts from improvised explosive devices. A roadside bomb explodes and the concussive effect violently shakes the brain inside the skull.
Stefano Rellandini Reuters /Landov

Nineteen-year-old Army Pvt. Cody Dollman has a look in his eyes that makes you think he probably used to fight much bigger kids on the playground back home in Wichita, Kan. He says he always wanted to be a soldier — both his grandfathers served in the military — but he's the first in his family to see action overseas.

Read more
Remembrances
7:05 am
Fri February 17, 2012

Remembering 'Intrepid Storyteller' Anthony Shadid

New York Times journalist Anthony Shadid (second from right) reported from Embaba, a neighborhood in Cairo, in February 2011 during the revolution that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Ed Ou Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:01 am

I met Anthony Shadid on a ruined airstrip in western Afghanistan in the winter of 2001-'02. He was sporting a beard and longer hair in those days that made him look a little like a crusading Arab warrior. We spoke briefly and exchanged a few bits of useful news about the place. As I recall his face now, I realize Anthony's secret: His sincerity was piercing, disarming and infectious.

Read more
Afghanistan
3:15 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

Snowstorms Take A Toll In Afghan Refugee Camps

Aw Muhammad, a resident of a refugee camp in western Kabul, pulls back a shade as one of his six surviving children looks out on the snow. Afghanistan is suffering one of its harshest winters in many years.
Quil Lawrence NPR

Kabul's fourth snowstorm in the past month brought children out to play across the city, including those in the Charahi Qambar refugee camp in the western part of the capital.

Many of the children in the camp don't remember any other life outside of this mud-brick shantytown. Most of their parents fled the southern province of Helmand when the war heated up there four years ago.

Read more
Afghanistan
12:01 am
Wed February 8, 2012

Afghans Hedge Bets Amid Mixed Messages From U.S.

Afghan men walk past American soldiers in Ghazni province on Thursday. U.S. and Afghan officials are in talks that will determine how many American troops stay in Afghanistan after the NATO mission ends in 2014.
AFP AFP/Getty Images

After a long hiatus, the Afghan and U.S. governments this week reopened talks on a strategic partnership that will determine how many American troops stay in Afghanistan past the end of the NATO mission in 2014.

Read more
Afghanistan
3:18 pm
Fri February 3, 2012

Afghans View Peace Talks With Hope, Suspicion

Taliban fighters walk with their weapons after joining Afghan government forces during a ceremony in Herat province, last month. Thirty fighters left the Taliban to join government forces in western Afghanistan. The Taliban announced recently that they would open a political office in Qatar ahead of talks with Washington.
Aref Karimi AFP/Getty Images

The surprise announcement last month that the U.S. and the Taliban could soon begin peace talks in the Gulf state of Qatar may have increased the chances of a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan.

But Afghans are treating the prospect with equal measures of hope and suspicion — perhaps more of the latter from the government of President Hamid Karzai.

Read more
Afghanistan
3:04 pm
Tue January 17, 2012

Gains In Afghan Health: Too Good To Be True?

A nurse weighs an Afghan child at a U.S.-funded clinic in Farza, Afghanistan, in September. A new U.S.-sponsored survey shows dramatic gains in life expectancy and other aspects of health care in Afghanistan. But some experts are questioning the accuracy of the results.
John Moore Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 17, 2012 7:19 pm

A U.S.-sponsored mortality survey released last year announced huge improvements in health across Afghanistan. But the gains are so great that experts are still arguing about whether it's correct.

During three decades of war, Afghanistan remained a black hole of health information. The few mortality studies looked at a small slice of the population and then extrapolated.

Read more
Afghanistan
12:01 am
Fri January 13, 2012

In Afghanistan, Some Former Taliban Become Police

The northern Afghan town of Char Bolak is guarded by the Critical Infrastructure Police, an auxiliary police program. The U.S. is increasingly relying on ad hoc local militias to fight the Taliban, but residents and government officials have concerns about the militias.
Quil Lawrence NPR

Originally published on Fri January 13, 2012 11:50 am

NATO officials say they have reversed a disturbing trend in northern Afghanistan.

In 2009 and 2010, Taliban insurgents made inroads across the north of the country, which had been secure for years. NATO says that last year it brought the north back under control, but Afghan officials say it's thanks to one of the most controversial American tactics here: the use of ad hoc local militias.

Read more
Afghanistan
3:09 pm
Wed January 11, 2012

Afghan Announcements Annoy U.S., Hurt Relations

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, shown here during a press conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Kabul last month, has become increasingly combative toward the U.S. recently.
Massoud Hossaini AFP/Getty Images

U.S.-Pakistan ties are virtually frozen. And now, relations between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Washington are once again getting frosty.

Over the weekend Karzai surprised the Americans with the demand that the largest U.S.-run prison be turned over to Afghan control much sooner that planned.

It's the latest in a series of announcements by the Afghan government that sometimes appear designed to embarrass and annoy U.S. officials, as well as complicate American plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Read more
The Record
12:00 am
Fri December 30, 2011

Music In Afghanistan A Sensitive Subject

A performance at the Afghan National Institute of Music in November of 2010.
Daniel Wilkinson U.S. Embassy Kabul Afghanistan/flickr.com

Originally published on Fri December 30, 2011 12:01 am

Afghanistan sits at a crossroads between central Asia, Iran and the Indian subcontinent, and the country's music reflects that. Kabul hosted two international music festivals this fall — one traditional, the other a rock concert — but music is still a sensitive issue. International donors, including the U.S., have helped refurbish a conservatory in Kabul, but some of the students say they still face disapproval from extremist elements, even at the university.

Read more

Pages