Archive for Nuristan

Afghanistan: A Look Back

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

Early Days | The Soviet Invasion

1979, 1980

AFGHN-10260

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.

AFGHN-13316

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.

AFGHN-13284

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

 

AFGHN-13276NF2

   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

AFGHN-13333NF

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.

AFGHN-13202; Afghanistan; 1980

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

AFGHN-13431

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.

AFGHN-13321

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.

AFGHN-13269

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

 

AFGHN-13267

Nari District, Kunar Province

AFGHN-13279

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.

AFGHN-13388

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

AFGHN-13343NF

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.

AFGHN-13366

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

AFGHN-12970NF2

Only the Educated are Free

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2011 by stevemccurry
I’ve been working in Afghanistan for thirty years.  I covered the Russian invasion and withdrawal, the civil wars, the rise and fall of the Taliban.
AFGHN-10260-(1)  Mujahadeen Fighters, Nuristan, 1979
 
It seems that each time I return, control of a province or a city  has changed hands.  It was working in Afghanistan which taught me a lot about being a photographer.
BIO-10118Afghanistan, 1979
 
 
War and turmoil are a way of life in Afghanistan. One thing that is guaranteed, Afghanistan will endure anything and everything. The people who murmur Inshallah (God willing) don’t bet on tomorrow, but strive each day to survive and take care of their families.
AFGHN-12996
Bamiyan, Afghanistan, 2007
 A Hazara boy has transformed old car tires into buckets.
 After working in the Bamiyan province and seeing the dire stuation of the Hazara people,  I founded ImagineAsia to work in partnership with local community leaders and regional NGO’s to help provide educational resources for students at all levels, from elementary schools to high schools and universities.
We are happy and proud to welcome Freshta, a  young Afghan student from Bamiyan, Afghanistan, who has received a full scholarship from Goucher College in Maryland.  ImagineAsia worked with the Afghan Girls Financial Assistance Fund.  Our joint efforts were successful in  bringing her here to study pre-med.
Freshta, Dulles Airport, Washington, D.C.
January, 2011
 
  
 
Ali Aqa lives in Bamiyan Province near Band-e-Amir. His family is poor, his clothes used, but this 15-year-old  isn’t deterred:  He plans to be a lawyer. Childhood memories include Taliban occupation of his village in Bamiyan.
“They burned everything, even my school,” he says. “I pray to God no regime comes like that again.  After seeing my picture of him in the National Geographic article on the Hazaras, many people wrote to me who would like to help him.  ImagineAsia is working to ensure that he also receives a college education.
AFGHN-12818Ali Aqa, Bamiyan Province
“The Hazaras are producing the most enthusiastic, educated, forward-looking youth, who are seizing the opportunities provided by the new situation.”
- Michael Semple, Deputy to the European Union special representative to Afghanistan in 2004 – 2007.
 
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/02/afghanistan-hazara/mccurry-photography.html
“We must not believe the many, who say that only free people ought to be educated, but we should rather believe the philosophers who say that only the educated are free.”  –  Epictetus

The Afghanistan Dilemma

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on October 4, 2009 by stevemccurry
AFGHN-10260

Nuristan, Afghanistan, 1979

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

BIO-10134

Village in the Hindu Kush, 1980

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. 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.

AFGHN-10252

Jalalabad, 1988

There was a deep camaraderie amongst the fighters who were on the greatest mission of their lives.  They weren’t looking at the calendar, waiting to go back home on R & R to see friends, family, girlfriends.  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.

BIO-10118

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. 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.. Whole groups change sides when the terms are right.

AFGHN-12423ns

Ahmed Shah Massoud, 1992 

Afghans have to be versatile; they are survivors who are wily, clever, smart. They are the original survivors. They outwit, outplay, and outlast their adversaries.

AFGHN-10012

Kandahar, 1989

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 the people trying to change it,  change more than the country does even after Herculean efforts of well-meaning governments, NGO’s, and coalitions. Look at the Soviet misadventure for evidence.

AFGHN-12255

Road to Kabul, 1992

Maybe one definition of hell is that is the place where more effort produces fewer results. Five years ago, I could drive from Kabul over mountain passes in safety to the central highlands town of Bamiyan. Today, the only recommended way is to fly – if you can get a flight with the United Nations Assistance Mission. Today we have many more soldiers, contractors, and NGO’S than we did five years ago, yet it is far more dangerous today than it was then. We are getting fewer results with more boots on the ground. That tells me that we do not understand the country, the people, the terrain, the language, the religion, the culture.

AFGHN-12178

Chitral Valley, 1988

We are in their country, but many times we are not behaving as guests should. The recent story of the contractors responsible for the embassy security in Kabul having drunken sex orgies adds fuel to the Taliban fire. It was embarrassing to see American troops trying to do good by distributing gift to refugees during Eid, the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan.   Well-meaning troops  gave a trash bag full of stuffed animals to one refugee  family, when what the family needed was food and basic necessities.

AFGHN-10054

Near Pakistan border, 1984

Everyone wants Afghans to live their lives in a peaceful country where families can thrive, but our ideas to achieve that goal are often built on faulty assumptions.   The president will be damned if he agrees to send more troops, and he will be damned if he doesn’t. He may be a one-term president if the war goes badly, and who will decide if and when we “win.”  The concept of winning is dangerous. Do we win, or do the Afghans win, and do they even want that victory as we define it?  The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The problem is that intentions which are based on faulty assumptions are doomed to failure.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 28,518 other followers