ALEX PERRY, our New Delhi bureau chief, who reported on the battle of Qala-i-Jangi in late November, returned to Mazar-i-Sharif two weeks ago, only to be called eastward to Kabul to help cover the fighting near Gardez:
"It is actually quite lovely in Mazar. There are signs of the coming spring, and the stalls are stocked with fruit. Mazar appears prosperous, with traffic jams a commonplace because of the many nongovernmental organizations in town. But it's all a veil over a disintegrating situation. Mazar's warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum is engaging in a wave of ethnic cleansing against the area's Pashtun minority. There are continuing stories of rape, looting and pillage against them. On the surface, Mazar appears to have moved beyond the war, but it is a powder keg. Kabul, on the other hand, is clearly a war zone. Reaching the city after a trip over the mountains, we went through numerous strict security checks; 50 miles from the city, I saw warplanes and Apache attack helicopters in the air. There is a curfew in town, and tales of kidnappings abound. The capital's new rulers--the Panjshiri Northern Alliance--are determined to edge the Pashtun out of government. But the tension is high because the east is the Pashtun heartland. The ethnic card is being played on both sides of the country."
MATT REES, our Jerusalem bureau chief, reflects on the unrelenting violence in the Middle East:
"The conflict stalks and breaks into our lives here. On Thursday I walked past one of my favorite cafes, Caffit, on my way to meet a source who favored another restaurant. An hour later, waiters at the cafe wrestled a suicide bomber to the ground before he could detonate his explosives. Then at midnight, two Israeli tanks and a bulldozer pulled up on the road between Bethlehem and Deheisha refugee camp outside the home of our Palestinian affairs correspondent, Jamil Hamad. The bulldozer carved a trench seven feet deep across the road, right to Jamil's front step. It also busted through water pipes and flooded the ground floor of the house--where his son and two grandchildren slept--with three feet of water. The contents of the ground floor, where Jamil has lived since his father rented the old stone house in 1949, were destroyed. By then, our Israeli military correspondent, Aharon Klein, had bad news of his own. A close relative of his wife's had been killed in a raid on an Israeli settlement in the Gaza Strip overnight. The 18-year-old cousin was a regular dinner guest at Aharon's home."
MASSIMO CALABRESI,TIME's diplomatic correspondent, was back on the beat after breaking news the week before about a nuclear threat to New York City: