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Victims Maimed by Taliban Get Help from U.S. Team

Afghans who work for U.S. and other NATO troops in Afghanistan are a favorite target of the Taliban. The militants view them as traitors to be tortured and maimed.

Six months ago, Abdul Ghani, a mechanic who works for the U.S.-led provincial reconstruction team in Kunar province north of Kabul, was in a convoy that was ambushed by Taliban fighters. They beat Ghani, then used a bayonet to slice off his right ear.

But a new program based in Kabul is helping victims like Ghani. Navy Cmdr. Larry Legree, head of the provincial reconstruction team in Kunar province, and CURE International Hospital have created a program that provides reconstructive surgery to the estimated 200 Afghan workers who have lost body parts to Taliban knives.

"We basically wanted to look at what we could do to help these guys out because they were working with us," Legree said. "Not only for these gentlemen specifically, but in general what we could do to show the Taliban — and show the people — that the coalition forces working with the government offer alternatives to what the Taliban were offering."

The program recently got underway with the help of volunteer surgeons. Dr. Keith Rose, a former Army surgeon who paid his way to Kabul from Corpus Christi, Texas, crafted Ghani's new ear from his ribs and skin. He spent hours separating skin from Ghani's skull to craft a pocket in which to place rib cartilage for the new ear. Doctors say in a few months, the new ear will look as real as the one he lost.

Funding for the fledgling program is tentative. The Pentagon recently rejected CURE's request for $430,000 to pay for a year's worth of these procedures. That leaves CURE paying the $3,600 it costs to do each operation. The hospital is asking patients to contribute as much as they can for their operations. Ghani will pay $200.

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