Archive for November 23, 2011

Afghanistan: A Look Back

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2011 by stevemccurry

Early Days | The Soviet Invasion

1979, 1980

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Nuristan, Afghanistan

I slipped into Afghanistan across the border with Pakistan in 1979.  I went with a couple of guides who did not speak English.
I certainly didn’t speak Dari or Pashto so our only form of communication was improvised sign language.
I was woefully unprepared. Among my belongings were a plastic cup, a Swiss Army knife, two camera bodies, four lenses,
a bag of film and a few bags of airline peanuts.

A photograph I made of a helicopter that had been sabotaged by the Mujahadeen.
This was near an army garrison which had defected en masse. New York Times, December 27, 1979

Two government collaborators executed by Mujahadeen near Jalalabad

Two government collaborators executed by Mujahadeen near Jalalabad

 My naiveté was breathtaking, yet my Afghan guides protected me and treated me as their guest.
It was my first experience with the legendary Afghan hospitality.

Fathers and sons fought side by side

Fathers and sons fought side by side

  

Evening Prayers

Evening Prayers

 

Planting land mines in Logar Province to thwart the government troops' advance

Planting land mines in Logar Province to thwart the government troops’ advance

 

Young boy joins guerilla movement in Nuristan

Young boy joins guerilla movement in Nuristan

 

 Praying along the Kunar River

Praying along the Kunar River

I went back when the Russians invaded.
I traveled with many different mujahadeen and militia groups.
We mainly traveled at night to avoid being spotted by the Soviet helicopters.
Most of the time we walked, but a few times we were able to borrow horses.

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Mujahadeen mourn loss of their brother-in-arms

I was always astonished at the continual pipeline of weapons and supplies going into Afghanistan from Pakistan around the clock.
Rockets, mortar rounds, ammunition, were carried in by camels, donkeys, and fighters.
It was only later that we found out the staggering amount of money supplied by the U.S. to make it happen.

 

When I went back over the border into Pakistan, I had blisters, saddle sores, and filthy clothing into which I had sewn rolls of film,
which were among the first images of the conflict.

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Fighters carry a disassembled Russian anti-aircraft gun to move it to a
position overlooking the valley

 

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   I visited a government garrison at Asmar District, Kunar Province,  where three hundred soldiers defected to the Mujahadeen.  New York Times, December 29, 1979

I visited a government garrison at Asmar District, Kunar Province, where three hundred soldiers defected to the Mujahadeen.
New York Times, December 29, 1979

Christian Science Monitor, January, 1980

Christian Science Monitor, January, 1980

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TIME Magazine, April, 1980 I took these pictures in Nangahar Province. My coverage over several trips for TIME, was the basis for winning the Robert Capa Gold Medal award.

TIME Magazine, April, 1980
I took these pictures in Nangahar Province.
My coverage over several trips for TIME, was the basis for
winning the Robert Capa Gold Medal award.

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Strategy session in Kunar Province

Stern Magazine, 1980 Mujahadeen using goat skins to cross rivers

Stern Magazine, 1980
Mujahadeen using goat skins to cross rivers

International Herald Tribune, 1980

International Herald Tribune, 1980

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Commanders meet with tribal elders in Nangahar Province

Paris Match, 1980. I made this photograph of government soldiers in Kunar Province.

Paris Match, 1980.
I made this photograph of government soldiers in Kunar Province.

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Men used weapons from swords and axes to ancient guns and rocket propelled grenades

Over the years, I went back more than dozens of times on assignment for National Geographic, Time Magazine, ABC News,
and other news outlets.  I have spent time in Afghanistan during invasions, retreats, truces, and relative peace.
Almost every time I returned, the power centers had shifted. In a great game of musical chairs, elders, warlords, criminals, and
mullahs’ power grows and diminishes as predictably as the phases of the moon.

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AFGHN-13198; Afghanistan; 1980. A young girl holds her sibling.

Many families left their destroyed villages to live with relatives
in other regions of the country

 

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Nari District, Kunar Province

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As much as outsiders have tried to “re-form” the country in their own
image, Afghanistan  has been able to absorb the blows of superpowers, and
remain essentially the same.

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The interesting thing  is that the people trying to change it,  change more than the country
does even after Herculean efforts of  governments, NGO’s, and coalitions.

 

00829_01, Afghanistan, 1980, AFGHN-13342

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This village was destroyed by government forces in the Spring of 1979 because they had
given refuge to Mujahadeen.

The viciousness of the Soviet attacks forced millions to flee their homes for Pakistan and Iran, and
contributed to what the Afghanistan scholar, Louis Dupree, called “Migratory Genocide.”
By 1986, five million Afghans had left their country.

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Forty-six percent of all casualties were caused by bombings from airplanes or helicopters.

We invite you to see this blog on our new website:  http://www.stevemccurry.com

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