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David Rohde: Moderates do exist in Afghanistan

By Ann Curry, NBC News anchor

Yours truly in for Brian Williams tonight on this very tough day for Americans in Afghanistan. Fourteen people died, including some civilians, in two separate helicopter crashes--the worst during a raid on drug traffickers. Remember, the Taliban is funding their war with drug money. A firefight is reported, but the military says its preliminary investigation finds the helicopter was not shot down. 

As our NBC News team just happened to videotape the troops on the mission earlier, our challenge now is to make sure these images are used informatively, and yet respectfully, given the loss of life. This is the kind of ethical dilemma that happens behind the scenes that can rip your heart out. 

We have the first interview with New York Times reporter David Rohde on the broadcast tonight, in which he describes his recent, daring escape from the Taliban after seven months of captivity in the tribal areas, where presumably Osama Bin Laden is holed up.  Scary place for Americans, and Rohde's story is something out of a movie.  The crazy thing is, Google Earth can zero in on the exact area where he was held hostage. 

                    

Rohde also said something quite interesting as we think about the way forward in Afghanistan.

DAVID ROHDE: "I saw the contradiction that exists in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.  You know, one Afghan lied to me and kidnapped me.  Another Afghan, you know, helped me escape.  So, it's--it's really a question of sorting through the complexities.  And backing the right Afghans.  But there are courageous Afghans and Pakistanis who--who are fighting the Taliban. And want to help us fight the Taliban.                          

NBC News: So, it is on them, then, that the U.S. would have to rely to win?                            

DAVID ROHDE:  Yes.  It's finding more effective ways to back moderate Afghans and Pakistanis.  They exist.  And we have to find better ways to help them.

This, it would seem, hits the administration's dilemma square on the head, as it weighs the war strategy there.

On that point, President Obama talked about the crash and said he "will never rush" choosing whether to send US troops to war, referring to his upcoming decision about whether to send additional troops to Afghanistan.

There is other news, including new information about what those two Northwest Airlines pilots say they were doing in the cockpit that caused them to miss landing at the Minneapolis airport; what's taking so long for the swine flu vaccine to become more widely available; and a cool story about a dentist working to organize free dental care for children around the country.

As a girl raised poor enough to not always get to go to the dentist when she had a toothache, I am pretty glad about that.

See you tonight.