Archive for Afghan

Stalemate in Afghanistan

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2011 by stevemccurry

 

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Insane asylum, Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992

The pain of war has become too much for these men. Wrapped in blankets, they  have retreated into themselves.  Vulnerable and
haunted by demons, they are the uncounted casualties of decades of war.

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Hospital, Jalalabad

 

I was covering the war that erupted between the militias after the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan, photographing the aftermath of an attack on Kabul when, without warning another rocket attack began. I took cover in what turned out to be a hospital for the insane. Its residents were the victims of decades of war  – both civilians and soldiers. There were no doctors or nurses, no electricity, no running water. The smoke from the fire of a makeshift kitchen blackened the ceilings and walls. The men and women there wandered around, or sat in a catatonic stupor.

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Red Cross Hospital, Kabul

Photographers work in metaphors, trying to distill experience in pictures.  The scenes inside these hospitals get closer to showing the tragedy of the war than those of  destroyed cities.

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Hospital in Herat

The rationale for the mission has lurched from one thing to another.  Officials in Washington and in Kabul all try to explain what we are trying to accomplish.   We have been told it is to keep the streets safe in America from Al Qaeda.  It has been said that we are there to give breathing room to the Afghan government to build up their own forces.  We hear that we are there to help build Afghan institutions so that the country can have a civil society with good governance.

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Red Cross Hospital, Kabul

 

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Pul i Khumri

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Victim of Kandahar air attack in Peshawar Hospital

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Going to morgue, Kabul

 

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Terence White, AFP reporter, took this wounded Afghan fighter
to the hospital in Kabul

 

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Rocket attack in Kabul

 

The Century Foundation, a non-partisan research institute, has called on all sides of the conflict to enter into peace talks.  Lakhdar Brahimi, former UN Special representative for Afghanistan, has co-chaired a special task force with former undersecretary for political affairs Thomas Pickering.  Their recommendations are clear and blunt: it is time to stop deluding ourselves that there will be a clear victory in this war.  The report,  Negotiating Peace, was published this week.

 

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Kabul

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Kabul

Executive Summary Chapter One

Afghanistan has been at war for more than thirty years, and for nearly a decade, the international community has supported the country’s political, social, and economic reconstruction—and opposed the return to power of the Taliban. Afghans have seen many improvements over that decade, yet the resurgence of the Taliban across much of the country underscores that they are undeniably a force in Afghan society whose exclusion entails a very high cost. A majority of the Afghan people seem anxious for the contending factions to achieve a negotiated end to the war.

 

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Kabul

 

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Herat

 

 
Rahimullah Yusufzai,  senior analyst with the Pakistani TV channel, Geo TV, and the Resident Editor of the News International in Peshawar, an English newspaper in Pakistan, makes the point that the Taliban can keep fighting forever because they are fighting for their country and for their religion.  He believes that there is no military solution and that negotiations are the only way to stop the endless cycle of killing.

 

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Jalalabad

There will never be a time when we can achieve an historic battlefield victory and declare that the war is won.  Tribal groups will always vie for power.  Religious groups will always believe that the right way is only “their” way.  Women will always have to fight for their rights.

Wars end with political settlements, and it seems clear to many, if not most, that this war will have no winner.  Decades of war have been tragic for the Afghan people and the generations of children who have lost their childhoods, their limbs, and their lives.  It’s time to see if negotiations can do what shooting could not.

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Hazara Boy, Bamiyan Province

  

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Afghanistan’s Ancient Absolutes

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on February 28, 2011 by stevemccurry

AFGHN-13333NF    I traveled with  the Afghan Mujahadeen in 1979, who were determined to resist,  undermine, and overthrow the Marxist puppet central government.  This was before the Soviets invaded.  I photographed men girding for war and women selling jewelry to buy ammunition.

AFGHN-13268We  traveled as much as thirty miles a day subsisting on tea and bread with an occasional bonus of goat cheese or yogurt.  The only drinking water was what we scooped out of an irrigation ditch.

AFGHN-13246I 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. 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.

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AFGHN-13270I witnessed strafing by Soviet helicopter gunships, ambushes of Russian convoys, forced marches of captured soldiers, and the mujahadeen jumping on top of helicopters they brought down with Stinger missles.

AFGHN-13316During the ten years the Russians were in Afghanistan, they killed one million Afghans; five million became refugees.

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These are the proud men who were girding for war in a place where ancient absolutes still prevail.
- Adapted from Owen Edwards in American Photographer magazine, 1980.

 

 

 

AFGHN-13321There was a deep camaraderie amongst the fighters who were on the greatest mission of their lives.   They didn’t worry much about casualty numbers. The harder the fight was, the stronger they became. Walking in the snow without boots high up in the Hindu Kush was commonplace.  Those men were as tough as it gets, yet they could be gentle and tender with children.

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AFGHN-13314-(1)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. The interesting thing to me is that those trying to change it,  change more than the country does even after Herculean efforts of  governments, NGO’s, and coalitions.

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