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NPR's Renee Montagne on Afghanistan – Reconciliation, Taliban Peace Talks, More

NPR’s Renee Montagne just spent a month in Afghanistan, doing some great reporting. She joins us for an up-close look.

Don’t forget to tweet us today at #afghan.  

Young women studying midwifery in Badakhshan Province's capital city, Faizabad, Afghanistan. (Jim Wildman/NPR)

NPR’s Renee Montagne knows Afghanistan. She’s been in time and again since the U.S. invasion. Her latest big reporting trip was just last month. It was great reporting — voices and angles and intimacy that we often miss in the “big story” of the war.  

There were midwives in the mountains. Coffee and terror in Kandahar. But she also got right to the hot issues.  

The hottest right now is talking to the Taliban. It’s happening. The Afghan government, talking with the enemy, about a deal and about U.S. withdrawal.  

-Tom Ashbrook 


Renee Montagne, NPR Morning Edition host who just returned from a reporting trip to Afghanistan. You can see all of her stories in the “Back to Afghanistan” series. 

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  • Nick

    I am not a religious person as it is defined here in the Sonservatve America. But for Renee Montagne, God Bless You !

    Your reporting and support for Afghani women is one of the bravest acts duing this whole nine years involvement.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Renee Montagne is an excellent reporter and Morning Edition Host and people like her make NPR news shows a national treasure. I’ve been listening to ATC most of my life and I remember when Morning Edition was born.

    I’d love to hear Renee’s take on the recent news that KCET, the Los Angeles PBS station is becoming independent and will no longer be broadcasting the PBS lineup of shows.


    Read the comment thread there, they’re ready to rip Al Jerome (station president) a new you know what.

    This would be akin to WBUR or WNPR discontinuing their broadcasts of Morning Edition, All Things Considered and all of the other excellent radio shows produced by NPR.

    It makes me angry that some people (who comment here and elsewhere) attempt to push the meme that NPR and PBS are liberally biassed. If you listen to Beck and Limbaugh all day of course NPR and PBS seem that way.

    We need to keep NPR and PBS alive, they’re our last hope.

  • Grady Lee Howard

    Richard: Not to slight Renee’, and I’ve been informed by her Af-Pak reports like everyone else, but are you saying the BOARD of directors of KCET think NPR is TOO LEFTIST (I don’t say “too liberal” anymore because “too leftist” is more apropos.)? Or, do you think it is a matter of not wanting to pay the $million a year, or whatever it is, to be an affiliate? They could never compensate with in-house production, and they are not especially innovative, so are they severing their own perch?

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Grady: Sorry to conflate two issues.

    KCET is severing PBS content because of the expense and because (according to Al Jerome’s post) they want more locally produced content. Many people in LA are furious over this.

    My rant on how some people see bias in these two important national news sources is only marginally related but in fact, couple the two and it’s possible to see both NPR’s and PBS’s national news feeds dying. That makes me sad.

  • Grady lee Howard

    So, Richard, the result would be that even if we pledge faithfully we can’t get the product for which we pay? If KCET and other outlets can do this it must mean they expect, or have secured, underwriting from wealthy angels (or devils). (I read your link.) If they sever their present perch they must be putting a safety net (only for themselves) in place. I would be reading all day if all public radio had to be “John Birch approved”, like Beck. I will stop now before tom’s keepers poop their L.L. Bean slacks, which go so lovingly with smores.

  • Grady Lee Howard

    Would Christopher Lydon use a memory hole?

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Grady: I’m not sure the reason KCET is doing this is because a big underwriter objected to PBS content (although some of the comments in the link point to that). I’m pretty sure it’s the end of a stalemate between the station and PBS over the cost.

    Los Angeles, of all places, needs a “full service” PBS station and if they can’t raise the money to pay for it in LA it’s no doubt because of station mismanagement.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Before thread editor (threaditor?) decides all this bellyaching is irrelevant, enlighten me: Isn’t PBS the television broadcasting part of semi-publicly financed content?
    Isn’t NPR separate, with all its lineup of programming? And then I believe there is APR, which includes Prairie Home Companion. Oh, I give up.

  • Seymour Poussant

    Ellen: When they say “public” they mean pledges and underwriting, not tax paid appropriations. In most other advanced western nations state supported broadcasting gets the bulk of its budget via government appropriation, but not here. We fly on one wing and three quarters, almost like the post office. Maybe PBS will start selling stamps.

  • BHA

    1) The PBS station locator shows this station in LA, can you get that one?
    KLCS/Channel 58

    2) KCET was built with money donated by listeners and at least in the past, by taxpayers when public radio and TV got more money form the government. Nice way to do business, take the money, buy the equipment then go ‘independent’. Yes, I know KCET has been around for decades, I grew up just south of LA.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Seymour, I couldn’t think of a better word than “public.” I know the government is always cutting back its support. I think the word “public” originally meant taxpayer support but is more and more contributor support, however you say that.
    The BBC has achieved a remarkable separation of Journalism and State, however that happened, given that their support is not voluntary contributor-based.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    BHA: I’ll be out there next week visiting my 95 year old mother and will see if her cable lineup has KLCS/58. As is noted in the KCET post and comments, there are many PBS affiliates in LA but none of them except KCET carry the entire lineup which for a donation supported station, can be expensive.

    However, if Boston, Chicago, New York, Connecticut, DC, and many other places can do it, I find it amazing that LA can’t manage to raise the money.

    Ellen, as Seymour says, NPR and PBS are supported by corporate and individual donations (David Koch supports Nova). For Morning Edition/NPR to be able to send Renee to Afghanistan so we can have her reporting, her show needs to be subscribed to by various NPR affiliate stations like WBUR, etc.

    My point about KCET is that they’re a flagship affiliate station and if they go through with severing their subscription to PBS it will hurt PBS just the way any affiliate dropping NPR would hurt NPR and so, Morning Edition and Renee’s reporting.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Also, Richard, tune into WBUR all day via your computer. That’s what I do. I support both local and Boston NPR stations, but I’m watching a new multimedia outlet in my city that agglomerates all the kinds of information into one site and provides its own content. It is financed by advertising (sort of), but seems to be an example of how in future we’ll get local news. Rather than checking all the local radio stations, all the local web sites, and public access TV, and googling your city for coverage across the state, you can let your local specialists do that.
    Where does that leave your local NPR station? When you can listen to ATC out of Boston even if you’re in say Philadelphia? Your local NPR station will have to specialize, do something WBUR does not do.

  • Michael

    I’m So Worried by Monty Python pretty much sums things out (often) on ONPOINT


  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    By the way, it may be that the internet will be the solution here. If WNPR dropped onPoint (the way they dropped Here and Now) I can listen to onPoint live via iTunes and other streaming sources or wait until 3 pm and hear it via the web stream. I still pick up Hear and Now that way.

    Same with The NewsHour. They’ve made a successful move to the web and we can watch any segment of any show within a few hours of the broadcast being finished at 7 pm EST.

    NPR has an excellent web site as well which can be tracked via RSS, twitter, etc. So, hopefully we’ll keep Renee reporting even as radio as we knew it changes.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Ellen: Great minds… thanks.

  • BHA

    Does the young man who wants the Taliban back recognize that under the Taliban, you were ‘convicted’ without due process? If they said you were guilty, you were guilty. Lose an ear, hand, maybe your life.

  • Blair van Brunt


    Just wondering if Renee found it hard to talk to the women and get straight answers about their feelings of the Taliban returning? Are they afraid to speak their truth?

  • http://awwproject.org Stefan Cooke

    Listeners (and readers) might be interested in the Afghan Women’s Writing Project – http://awwproject.org – where American women writers and teachers mentor young Afghan women in telling their stories in essays and poems. I think On Point should invite the Project’s founder, Masha Hamilton, onto the show.

  • michael

    wikileaks release documentation on the CIA using afgan women to garner support for staying and keeping the afgan war.

    This seems like a Propaganda Piece using afgan women to acccomplish such.

    Also report that the tailban is not an uniform group or collective like this Perception being pushed by NPR and currently Onpoint.

    Please ask your guest the reason for invading afganstian.

    Folks be wearly about this type of reporting

  • michael

    It’s false to assume or state that the taiban does not have vast support are over the country.

    To support such is against U.S. interest so it not. 2009 reflect this and was shelfed by the U.S. from reporting.

  • michael

    This is what you call appeal to the court of the public opinions, omit some information while focusing on abuses to garner support or manufacture support to keep the war going.

    If the U.S. stays and kills 5 times the amount of civilians dying each year before they were there. To many afgans who family members are the one dying would not seem like a good trade-off .

    Western contractors are even worst and do not have to abide by any laws. Who have been paying off taliban as well.

    Do a poll on afgans and Western contractors and you see there more hated then the U.S.. or taliban.

  • Mike W.

    Who knew in 1988 Rambo III was so accurate with town/province names and cultural games/sports! I didn’t know Sylvester Stallone movies were EDUCATIONAL?! Hopefully reality doesn’t turn out the same way it did in the movie for those crazy Russians.

  • http://www.onpointradio.org/2010/10/npr-renee-montagne-afghanistan Barbara Walton

    Did you see any evidence of the schools that have been built by Greg Mortenson and what are your views on his efforts?

  • brian mcclintock

    My gosh! Was looking forward to hearing what Rene was going to say but could only make it though about twenty minutes. Her stammering and lack of fluidity in descriptions made the whole dialogue hard to follow. Is she ok?

  • Dennis.in.Omaha

    We Americans have every right to protect ourselves.

    So when I heard the opinion of the weak young man in a coffee shop pre-surrendering to the Taliban, I can’t imagine his type as a strong partner for peace.

    If his type leads Afghanistan, then it follows naturally another attack larger than the twin towers. They will not be strong enough to protect America and her allies from terrorists in their own government.

  • Dennis.in.Omaha

    Hi Barbara,

    That is a good question. Did you cross paths of any schools built by Greg Mortensen?

  • BHA

    The reason we are “losing” is that we have to worry about minimizing civilian deaths at the hands of US/NATO/Afgan soldiers. When the “targets” hide with the civilians, there is no winning with weapons unless “collateral damage” is ignored.

    Never mind that the “insurgents” don’t care how many innocent civilians they kill with suicide and car bombers. Muslims killing Muslims, against the teachings of the Quran.

  • cory

    Get out of there. Leave immediately and apologize profusely for whatever mess we leave behind. Can’t afford it, can’t fix it, can’t make sense of it. Get the hell out.

  • Jimmy

    I like Renee Montagne and was glad she was a guest today; however, I remember when Afghanistan had to beg for coverage. Now I’m seeing the same thing happen to Iraq. We have 50,000 troops still there. Ryan Crocker and others have indicated that the US will likely replace the Status of Forces Agreement with another treaty to keep US soldiers on Iraqi soil after 2011. I think we need at least two segments a month on Afghanistan and two segments a month on Iraq.
    I can’t find Iraq in my paper. I can barely find it on NPR. Kelley McEvers last filed a report from Iraq October 4th.
    I’m really saturated enough with all the ‘musings’ on elections — my degree’s political science, I know b.s. when I hear it — when we need real coverage of real issues.

  • wavre

    Let’s remember that the Taliban are legitimate afghan citizens. We may not agree with their ways, but let’s stop talking over their heads about the future of their country.

    Fostering a dialog amongst the different Afghani factions is the only reasonable way for reaching a lasting peace in the region. Concerns about sharia laws, women civil rights issues…are just side shows used as a diversion by people who are profiteering for those “wars”.

    We are not dealing with kids here; they are all grown-ups able to negotiate amongst themselves a way forward.

    And if it’s true that 9-11 plot, generated in their country thru Al-Qaeda, an internationally led monitoring system can easily be put in place, if that is what we are really concerned about.

  • stan

    I admire your courage for the incrdible reports, the Russians went in with over 250,000 troops and they were more brutal than us, and left the country defeated , what are our chances of winning this war ?, and where the Taliban get their weapons, Are Russian getting back with us,and supplying them with arms like we did in the past

  • Jim in Omaha

    Using a cold war analogy, I say give the Afghan people what they want. In winning the cold war, we didn’t “defeat” the Soviet Union’s military and government so much as the Soviet population just had enough and overthrew their own leaders. So I say let the Taliban and their form of governing take control. If enough Afghans oppose how they are ruled, they will act accordingly. The USA or our allies can not accomplish such a result by military action. And our efforts to do so will bring unending hatred our way.

    Afghanis would certainly not be the first people to demand to be governed by corrupt leaders who clearly do not have their best interest at heart, would they?

  • Peggy Samuels

    Can Renee tell us about whether or not she has witnessed any Indian presence in Afghanistan? I am asking because I always hear that the Pakistanis are worried about Indian influence in Afghanistan, but in all the years that I have listened to reporting on Afghanistan, I have never heard anyone mention any Indian presence or influence there.

  • MKA

    The cost of occupation will drive NATO out of Afghanistan. More than 40 million people in US are on food stamps and yet this very costly war goes on.

  • Slips

    Somebody should tell Ms Montagne that droning on self-centeredly is a good way to put your audience to sleep…zzzz…khrrk….

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