Right after I graduated from college this past May, I went on a bit of an odyssey. I took a trip to Afghanistan. After being away for three years, I returned to the western part of the country where my family resides. I was struck by how much things had changed for the worse in just three years. Three years ago, there was a lot of employment, a lot of optimism for the future, and an overall hope for a better life. However, this time, complete hopelessness, lawlessness, and uncertainty dominated the atmosphere. Everyone lived in a state of utter fear.

It was an extramarital affair that scandalized Kabul. It would also fuel a lifelong adventure and help create a legacy for Afghanistan. Author Nancy Hatch Dupree, eightysomething, recently opened the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University to commemorate her great love, archaeologist Louis Dupree, and return something to the country that brought them together.

Taliban militants gunned down and killed six people in Afghanistan working on a government-backed literacy project in the northern province of Faryab, officials said on Wednesday. The insurgent group is stepping up attacks on state workers ahead of presidential elections due in April 2014, fanning security concerns as foreign troops prepare to withdraw from the country by the end of next year.

The United States is withdrawing troops from Afghanistan having lost its battle against the country’s narcotics industry, marking one of the starkest failures of the 2009 strategy the Obama administration pursued in an effort to turn around the war. Despite a U.S. investment of nearly $7 billion since 2002 to combat it, the country’s opium market is booming, propelled by steady demand and an insurgency that has assumed an increasingly hands-on role in the trade.

Senior Afghan officials will travel to Pakistan soon to speak to former Taliban deputy commander following a breakthrough in negotiations during a London summit, the Afghan presidential palace said. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is a long-time friend of reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and is seen by some in Afghanistan as the key to restarting peace talks.

Don't expect much in the way of breakthroughs. That's the message in the media, as Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif meets US President Barack Obama on Wednesday. That the two men are even meeting should be viewed as a sign of progress, the Associated Press said.

Pakistan’s powerful army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, on Saturday said the army supports the government’s policy of dialogue with the Taliban to end the insurgency wracking the country. Last month the main Pakistani political parties backed a government proposal to seek negotiations with the militants, who have been waging a bloody insurgency against the state since 2007.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced its selection Friday morning and it wasn't Malala. (The prize went to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.) To find out how that news was received among school girls, I stopped by the Centre of Science and Technology (COSAT) — a public high school near Cape Town, South Africa, that I have been profiling this year.