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Afghanistan

Updated at 9:51 p.m. ET

Members of Congress in both parties demanded answers on Monday about reported bounties paid by Russian operatives to Afghan insurgents for targeting American troops.

The stories appeared to have taken even the most senior lawmakers off guard, and they said they wanted briefings soon from the Defense Department and the intelligence community.

Updated 11:30 a.m. ET on Saturday

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper spoke Saturday about a newly reached deal between the U.S. and the Taliban to deescalate the longest-running war in American history.

The "reduction in violence" deal will take place over a seven-day period and ultimately will aim to bring the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan down to 8,600 from around 12,000 over the following months.

The 8,600 number will still include counterterrorism and training operations.

Updated at 2:11 p.m. ET

Two U.S. service members were killed and six more wounded during an attack on a joint operation between American and Afghan forces on Saturday in eastern Afghanistan.

Early indications suggest that the two service members were killed in what's known as a green-on-blue attack, in which Afghan forces or infiltrators turn their weapons on U.S. and coalition troops.

More than 100 Gold Star families are suing several major defense contractors, alleging they made illegal "protection payments" to the Taliban — thereby funding the Taliban's insurgency efforts that killed or wounded thousands of Americans in Afghanistan.

It's illegal under the federal Anti-Terrorism Act to provide material support to the Taliban. The U.S. has warned defense contractors that protection payments are against the law, but according to the lawsuit, the practice has proliferated because defense contractors feel it's a cost of doing business.

Updated at 4 p.m. ET

During a surprise Thanksgiving Day visit to troops stationed in Afghanistan, President Trump said that his administration has reopened peace talks with the Taliban, nearly three months after he abruptly canceled them. Trump made the announcement at a rally staged at Bagram Airfield outside Kabul, where he exchanged handshakes and posed for photographs with U.S. troops.

Just as darkness fell, Capt. Austin S. "Scott" Miller was hunkered down in a building in Mogadishu, Somalia, together with his soldiers from the U.S. Army's elite Delta Force.

It was Oct. 3, 1993, and a Black Hawk helicopter had just been downed by local militants in the battle of Mogadishu, what would become the core of the book and movie Black Hawk Down. Miller was awarded a Bronze Star with a valor device for the nearly day-long battle that left 18 Americans dead and 73 wounded — including Miller.

President Trump is addressing the nation Monday night, beginning at 9 p.m. ET, on U.S. engagement and "the path forward" in Afghanistan and South Asia. Senior U.S. officials tell NPR that the president is expected to order about 4,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.

The Roldan Family

Despite the growing number of women in the military, the Pentagon does not track how many deployed women are also mothers. It also doesn’t count the number of deployed fathers.

But being a parent and simultaneously serving your country can create challenges especially when deployed.

Rahmat Gul/AP

In 2003, Raj Chandarlapaty graduated with his PhD in English from the University of South Florida.

While the teaching career that followed took him all over Florida and Texas, he maintained a close relationship with his mentor at USF, Phillip Sipiora. That included writing a number of articles for The Mailer Review, an annual collection of works about author Norman Mailer that Sipiora edits.

So-called "burn pits" were common at U.S. military outposts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Legislation in the Senate would create a center to study the effects of breathing their smoke.

Updated 3:15 a.m. ET

David Gilkey, an NPR photojournalist who chronicled pain and beauty in war and conflict, was killed in Afghanistan on Sunday along with NPR's Afghan interpreter Zabihullah Tamanna.

Brush of Honor / INSP Network

A father provides the stories and a professional artist the paint to create a portrait of Air Force Capt. James Steel, an F-16 pilot who was born in Tampa and killed in Afghanistan on April 3, 2013.

James and his twin brother Jonathan loved playing on the Bay Area beaches as their father, Major General Robert Steel, flew F-16s with the 61st Fighter Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base.

Ashley White Family / Memorial Page

Among those who will be remembered this Memorial Day is 1st Lt. Ashley White, a member of an all-female, all-Army Cultural Support Team attached to a Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan.

White is buried behind her family’s church in Ohio. It’s the same church where she was baptized and where she married Capt. Jason Stumpf six months before she was killed.

The family had the option of burying Ashley at Arlington National Cemetery,

USMC

There are a lot of patriotic messages on July 4th. Here are some words of encouragement specifically for those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This comes from a portion of the talk delivered by Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos at the June 18, 2014, Change of Command at MARCENT – the Marine Command at U.S. Central Command based at MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, FL.

Gen. James Amos:

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

It’s a delicate balance keeping troops supplied while downsizing in Afghanistan. Then, add the mandate to do it in the most economical and efficient way.

That’s why troops in Afghanistan, including the commander Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, are eating an MRE for one of their three daily meals. There are a lot of prepackaged Meals Ready to Eat stored in Afghanistan and they are not worth the cost to ship home.

Cpl. Timothy Lenzo / U.S. Marine Corps photo

Holidays are particularly tough for deployed military members thousands of miles away from family.

But the U.S. Central Command, based at Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base, has made certain the troops in Afghanistan will have a special meal according to Scott Anderson, Deputy Director of Logistics and Engineering for CENTCOM.

Anderson is in charge on the civilian side of making sure troops are properly supplied.

Associated Press

The  hidden bomb that killed St. Petersburg's Army Spc. Brittany Gordon on Saturday is being linked to the revenge killing of a 9-year-old Afghan child according to the New York Times.

Just weeks before Clarence Williams III, 23, was scheduled to return from Afghanistan, the Brooksville soldier was killed by an explosive device that also took the life of a man who graduated from a Tampa high school.

Williams' sister, Abrill Edwards, told the Tampa Bay Times that she talked with her brother on Sunday, the day he was killed. She said her brother read the Bible daily and confirmed he was due to come home in two or three weeks.