By Francois Lenoir
It was a cold, wet morning when I passed through the doors of the Church of Saint John the Baptist at the Beguinage, a grand 17th century building in the center of Brussels.
All war-torn countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan, share a common characteristic -- the absence or destruction of economic infrastructure. The lack of opportunity fuels frustration and unrest, giving violent actors an opening to destabilize fragile institutions.
The United States won a short-term diplomatic victory over Iran this week. Under intense pressure from American officials, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon withdrew an invitation for Iranian officials to attend the Syria peace conference.
Key parties to the conflict in Syria are meeting in Switzerland on Wednesday. The participants have been downplaying expectations that the “Geneva II” peace conference -- which will bring together for the first time representatives from the Assad government and various rebel groups along with major international players -- will resolve the conflict, or even bring about a ceasefire.
In Kiev, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have taken to the streets to demand the government join the European Union, in the hopes it will spur economic growth. In Kabul, Afghan leaders overwhelmingly voted to have American troops remain for another decade, in the hopes they will maintain a “war and aid economy” that has brought them unprecedented riches.
On June 12, 2012, U.S. soldier Matt Krumwiede was on patrol in Afghanistan when he stepped on an improvised explosive device, which tore away both his legs, damaged his left arm, and ripped open his abdominal cavity. The 22-year-old has since undergone around 40 surgeries and is learning to walk with prosthetic legs. Photographer Jim Urquhart spent time with Matt as he undergoes treatment in Texas. Read Jim's personal account here.
Twelve years ago this month, President George W. Bush issued an order authorizing the U.S. military to detain non-U.S. citizen “international terrorists” indefinitely, and try some of them in military commissions. Within two months, those seized in the “war on terror” following the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan were being sent to Guantanamo Bay.
This is an excerpt from Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror, by Erik Prince, published this month by Portfolio.