COVER STORYChristians in Basra subdued for holidayChristmas is likely to be a subdued affair for the dwindling Christian population of this once-cosmopolitan city. This year, the holiday falls amid the Shiite festival of Ashoura, when much of the city’s population will take to the streets to commemorate the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson — many by ritually cutting themselves and whipping their backs with chains. • Story

Veterans turning to poetry to heal their war woundsWhen Army Spc. Matt Ping returned to the States after 16 months isolated in the mountains of northeast Afghanistan, he felt cut off from his new surroundings. And the nightmares scared him. But he was reluctant to seek traditional therapy from a Department of Veterans Affairs facility. Instead, he turned to poetry to help him deal with the haunting memories. • Story

Troops fear corruption outweighs progress of Afghan forcesTomorrow, Afghanistan’s homegrown soldiers might be ready to take over the fight against the Taliban, so that American forces can begin to come home as President Barack Obama hopes. But today, they are far from ready. Even the best Afghan units lack training, discipline and adequate reinforcements. • Story

U.S. trainers try to get Afghan air force off the groundRocket-propelled grenades began whizzing by the rickety, Soviet-era Mi-17 chopper. Flying 50 feet above a canyon floor in Kandahar province, the Afghan pilot suddenly began to climb, lurching dangerously close to another Mi-17. Sitting in the co-pilot seat, U.S. Air Force Capt. Tyler Rennell abruptly seized control of the chopper and narrowly averted a midair collision. • Story

Iraq to Afghanistan: A radical adjustmentFor many U.S. troops, the hope that a phased withdrawal from Iraq would mean a break from war has met the reality that many of them will be needed in Afghanistan, where eight years after the U.S. invaded in the wake of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the war seems to have just begun in earnest. • Story

More stories:• U.S. forces to train Poles on air defense • Army testing new camouflage • Wal-Mart to issue refunds for overseas military shipping costs

Spouse CallsA weekly column in Stripes' Scene magazine by Terri Barnes, a military wife and mother of three who lives and writes in Germany. • This week's column • Terri Barnes' blog

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