Afghan President Ashraf Ghani tells NPR that most people in his country want a continued U.S. troop presence and that his government is determined to make sure that the self-declared Islamic State does not gain a foothold.

Ghani, on an official visit to the United States, spoke in a wide-ranging interview with Morning Edition host Renee Montagne to be broadcast on Monday.

He says the perception that Afghans are eager for U.S. troops to leave the country is simply untrue. "They see the United States as critical to their future," he says.

James McCauley / Creative Commons

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a newspaper column about the Brian Williams debacle, except it really wasn't about that. It's about the way a relatively small story about a lie told by a news anchor seems to be the only national conversation we can have about our role in Iraq.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine have resulted in a cease-fire which is set to begin Sunday. But there's still a long ways to go before a lasting peace can exist between the two countries.

Former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman doesn't think the cease-fire will hold. He told CNN that the U.S. should send weapons to Ukrainian fighters to help counter Russian-backed troops and President Vladamir Putin.

"I think if we give them the weapons to defend themselves, it actually raises the prospects that the cease-fire will hold because it creates a little more balance on the ground and creates a bit of a disincentive for Putin and the separatists to keep moving through eastern Ukraine," said Lieberman.

In a move that is sure to set off a new round of debate over how the U.S. should fight ISIS, the Obama administration has sent Congress a request for formal authorization to use military force against the extremist group.

Outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, speaking to NPR's Morning Edition, says he's concerned about retaining qualified U.S. military service members amid the "stress and strain" of more than 13 years of continuous warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Three years after the U.S. military officially withdrew from Iraq, 2,000 U.S. troops are back. They're restoring the old buildings they'd left behind and renewing contacts with Iraqi officers they knew before.

They're also taking incoming rocket fire at their bases.

This week began an ambitious training program to put 5,000 Iraqi soldiers through boot camp every six weeks.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Let me set the stage a little: A movie called "The Imitation Game" will be released nationwide Christmas day, the latest of several attempts to tell the story of Alan Turing. That story is so big, it can only be told in little pieces.

The piece most people focus on is Turing's work as the single most important code breaker in World War 2, the man who built a machine that broke apart the deeply encrypted Nazi code, and then gave the Allies an advantage that they were forced to conceal.

It's been a violent 24 hours in Afghanistan:

-- 12 workers clearing mines on Saturday were attacked by Taliban militants and another dozen were wounded, a police spokesman said.

Outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel landed in Iraq this morning. Hagel is scheduled to meet with Iraqi officials and U.S. commanders about the U.S.-led war against the so-called Islamic State.

This visit is of note because Hagel is the first secretary of defense to visit the country since President Obama ended American combat involvement in Iraq in 2011.

Since then, the U.S. has beefed up its military presence in Iraq to combat ISIS, which started an assault on the country over the summer.

Bettman / Corbis

Connecticut Judge John T. Downey has died. Downey was the longest-held captive of war in U.S. history.

Ray Hardman / WNPR

On Tuesday, I attended the Wethersfield Veteran's Day Ceremony at town hall. Among the many veterans in attendance, I had the chance to talk with Herb Philbrick, 97, who served in the Navy during World War II. Philbrick was a Chief Machinist Mate, and among his many memories of serving his country, he clearly remembers watching the battle of Iwo Jima, including the now iconic raising of the American Flag on Mount Surabachi from his ship, the U.S.S. Oceanus.

"I am a United States Army General, and I lost the Global War on Terrorism."

Those are the frank opening words of a new book by retired Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger, Why We Lost: A General's Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Bolger continues:

"It's like Alcoholics Anonymous. Step one is admitting you have a problem. Well, I have a problem. So do my peers. And thanks to our problem, now all of America has a problem. To wit: two lost campaigns and a war gone awry."

NPR — along with seven public radio stations around the country — is chronicling the lives of America's troops where they live. We're calling the project "Back at Base." This is the first installment of the ongoing series.

Even 10 years after the battle for Fallujah, it's hard for Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Torain Kelley to talk about some things that happened.

"We had people shooting at us from up [on] the rooftops, from the houses, from the sewers or wherever they could take a shot at us from," he says.

Yale University

Speaking Tuesday on WNPR's Where We Live, Rami Nakhla, a noted Syrian peace activist, said the Syrian Civil War started as a pro-democracy uprising, but has since changed, facilitating the rise of groups like the so-called Islamic State. 

Raqqa Media Center

A new PBS FRONTLINE documentary explores "The Rise of ISIS." Producer and reporter Martin Smith joins us to talk about his reporting from Iraq, chronicling the conditions that allowed for the so-called Islamic State to become so powerful. He was also on the ground when U.S. airstrikes began this summer.

We also check in with Senator Chris Murphy, who has been a vocal opponent to U.S. military intervention in the crisis, and with a Syrian peace activist who is a part of the Yale World Fellows program.

At a checkpoint outside the northern Iraq town of Makhmur, I saw something I'd never seen before in Iraq.

Two men were checking cars. One was young and wearing a sand-colored uniform of the official Iraqi Kurdish forces, called the peshmerga. The other was older, grizzled and dressed in an olive-green, traditional Kurdish overall, and he's with Turkey's Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

"We're happy to be working together," said the older man, Hajji Hussein Abdulrahman.

Four private security guards working for the Blackwater Worldwide firm who were charged in the 2007 shootings of more than 30 Iraqis have been found guilty by a federal jury.

Nicholas Slatten was found guilty of first-degree murder, and three others — Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard — were found guilty of multiple counts of voluntary manslaughter.

NPR continues a series of conversations from The Race Card Project, where thousands of people have submitted their thoughts on race and cultural identity in six words.

Jesse Dukes does not have Confederate ancestors. But in the time he has spent writing about Civil War re-enactors, he has met many who say they do.

Nigeria's army has reportedly reached a cease-fire deal with the extremist group Boko Haram that could lead to the release of more than 200 schoolgirls who were abducted in April and whose release quickly became an international cause.

According to NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, Nigeria's official news agency is quoting the country's defense chief, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, as saying a truce has been reached. Badeh announced the truce and ordered his troops to immediately comply with the agreement, according to The Associated Press.

The besieged city of Kobani, Syria, has seen an increase in air strikes and fighting, with Kurdish fighters in the area saying they've stopped the extremist group ISIS from advancing. As the U.S.-led coalition carried out strikes on areas east and south of Kobani, new reports emerged about Turkey's role in supporting the fight against ISIS.

Lucy Nalpathanchil

Over the last three years, a volunteer effort has grown to build a unique memorial in Middletown. The first phase of the Connecticut Trees of Honor Memorial is near completion.

As a member of the Obama administration, Leon Panetta was involved in many of the major foreign policy decisions of the past six years. He stepped down as secretary of defense last year.

As director of the CIA, Panetta carried out President Obama's decision to end enhanced interrogation of terror suspects, and he oversaw the operation to kill Osama bin Laden.

Updated at 8:40 a.m. ET

A United Nations report out today lists what it describes as a "staggering array" of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity by the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq, including mass executions, the kidnapping of women and girls to use as sex slaves and the use of child soldiers.

It also points to shelling and airstrikes by Iraqi security forces that killed civilians and "may have violated the principles of distinction and proportionality under international humanitarian law."

Updated at 12:25 p.m. ET

The British Parliament has voted to approve the U.K.'s participation in U.S.-led airstrikes against the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq after Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs that the extremists pose a "clear and proven" threat to British lives.

The 524-to-43 vote in Parliament came after a lengthy debate that followed the latest U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria on targets of the hard-line Islamist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL. The strikes hit oil installations for a second consecutive day.

Updated at 8:40 a.m. ET

The U.S. and some of its Arab coalition partners have conducted another round of airstrikes in Syria, hitting oil refineries that have fallen into the hands of Islamic State militants, who officials say are funding themselves with the petroleum revenues.

The Pentagon says 13 airstrikes hit a dozen "modular" oil refineries in eastern Syria. The refineries are thought to produce $2 million worth of refined petroleum each day for the self-declared Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Update at 6:50 p.m. ET

U.S. officials have confirmed that a new round of airstrikes in Syria is ongoing, NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman told All Things Considered.

"We know some of the targets are oil assets, oil wells being controlled by the Islamic State. There's not a lot of detail at this time ... but it's likely around the Raqqah area, which is sort of [the Islamic State's] de facto headquarters.


President Barack Obama said the participation of five Arab nations in airstrikes against militants in Syria "makes it clear to the world this is not America's fight alone."

The United States and its allies expanded their assault against the Islamic State on Monday, striking targets inside Syria for the first time, the Pentagon said.

In a statement, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said the U.S. had used "a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles."

Kirby said that because these strikes are ongoing, he could not go into details about where in Syria the allies were attacking. But a Pentagon official tells NPR's Tom Bowman that the strikes occurred near Raqqah, an Islamic State stronghold.

Updated at 7:35 a.m. ET

Kurdish fighters claim to have halted an advance by self-described Islamic State militants in an area of the Turkish-Syria border region that has seen masses of refugees fleeing the fighting in recent days.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Connecticut Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal split their votes on legislation authorizing the U.S. military to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels fighting the so-called Islamic State, otherwise known as ISIS or ISIL.