The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

The Afghanistan Dilemma – Redux

Dead Afghan Soldier, Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 1992

Maybe one definition of hell is that it 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 UN flight. 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 many do not understand the country, the history, the people, the terrain, the language, the religion, the culture.


As hard as outsiders have tried to “re-create” 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.


Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992

The Congressional Research Service recently said the United States has spent nearly $230 billion on the war in Afghanistan. That amount will jump to $300 billion once Congress has approved a military spending bill for fiscal 2010.  The question for all of us to ask is on what we are spending the money, and is it making a difference?  Do our leaders have any idea what they are trying to accomplish?  How many books have they read on Afghan history? How many officials based in Washington have stayed there more than a couple of days?


Mujahadeen fighter takes a looter to jail. Kabul, 1992

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. President Obama 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?


Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The problem is that intentions which are based on faulty assumptions are doomed to failure.


Red Cross Hospital, Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992

00560_01, Afghanistan, 05/1992, AFGHN-13131

Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992


Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992


Insane Asylum, Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992

97 Responses to “The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    so nice photo

  2. The secret of our work is to grasp the truth, the essence.
    You.. always hit the mark.

  3. Your blogs are the most amazing pieces I have ever seen. I have been captivated by the culture of Afghanistan and am so desperate to be involved. However I understand it is not help they need from the West, but understanding. Thank you so very much for being real with the world in regards to the nation. Too many writers blur details or show only what has already been seen a thousand times over. You are raw. You are inspirational. You have made me fall even more in love with the people.
    Thank you.

  4. Every time I look your works for me are school of thought and inspiration in the difficult path of Photography!!


  5. Your photos are great…
    I am greatly impressed…
    I wish you come to my country – in Georgia…

  6. Rajendra Biswas Says:

    Your FILM SHOTS ARE AMAZING…. FILM HAS THAT MAGICAL look,digital pics are good too.but digitals main strength is multitasking still has a lot to learn from film anyways its the man who uses his camera well is a photographer

  7. henrique Says:

    A realidade vista a parti de um olhar, de um momento que foi eternizado

  8. Very well said….I think what resonated the most we me is this graph…”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?” Thanks for sharing.

  9. You cannot bomb a belief. You cannot bomb religion. And until we understand that there will always be conflict in the Middle East. We finally have a president who understands that concept. I just hope the people realize that he has to undo what was previously done, in order to make progress moving forward.

  10. ..che tragedia! Triste! Le fotografie sono bellissime!

  11. Mr McCurry,

    I just love the work you have done in your lifetime and would like to ask of your permission to feature you in my blog.


  12. Dear Steve,

    The problem is that history tells us a lot about how NOT to achieve our aims. The question really is: How do we do it better. Unfortunately we lack examples. What once worked for a certain pepole or country will not work for some other people or country today.
    The people in power lack answers, this is why they do what they do. They dont know any better and apparently there is nobody being able to tell them what exactly and concretly needs to be done to have success.

    I just listened to an interesting interview with a military person on the German radio. He said that the problem is that western soldiers stay in their camps instead of in the villages where they could protect people from taliban and other criminals. Because of this tactic security cannot be established and NGOs cannot work in remote areas. People then unite with Talibans so that they are no longer being harressed by them.

    If he was correct, we would indeed need more soldiers and accept more casualties on our “side” I suppose.

    What do you make of this proposition? Does it in any way conform to your own experience? Is this a possible way out in your view? Are the western nations afraid to take the risks involved in stationing their soldiers outside fortified camps, thereby compromising the success of the mission? Can the Afghani people make Afghanistan a secure place without western soldiers? If so, how?

    I, myself have lived for a year in India amongst locals and studied the political, ethnical and religious problems of this country. Still I have to say, if I was asked to propose how to, lets say solve the conflict in kashmir, all I could say was: Either assist in talks and wait untill the involved parties become reasonable enough to see the amount of pain and suffering they are creating or just wait until the people themselves end the whole thing. Maybe after almost 60 years of war like conditions that day is coming closer for kashmir (Admittedly the conflict there is far smaller and of a completly different nature than in Afghanistan, I am not trying to compare here). My point is that if not all of the involved in a conflict (as in all the people not just the ones in power) are willing to give up their strive for power and suporiority in society and decide to make peace their common aim, nothing will stop the whole thing. One can just talk, try to persuade, stich a few wounds and wait. I hope I am wrong and there is a way to end conflicts quicker.

  13. […] has other alarming photographs of war and death  – including an arresting image of a dead Afghan solider floating in water – which is at the bottom of this […]

  14. […] … but it was love in just another place as well.  it’s a place where i can learn about afghanistan … its people … its pain … its joy … and its faith.  i invite you to check […]

  15. hi steve!
    Your Images are so real and moving. great work.
    Thank you for sharing your photos
    p.s. i m interesting abouth new stories for Nat.geo – nomads from india
    i is digital ?
    greetings from serbia

  16. Since that haunting picture of “The Afgan Girl: 1984 appeared on National Geographic I have been interested in Afghanistan – her magnificent people . This year I plan to do something about it. My husband will go for a second time in trying to help the country with their infrastructure risking life – for he is not military but just has a heart for doing what is right. Might I suggest that through Kalhad Hossini books one also can get a glimpse into this magnificant people.

    Instead of pouring billions into this forsaken land – why don’t we just give cash in millions to each Afgan – or would this too lead to more bloodshed. I would rather give to them and allow them to rebuild their country as they want it – all the past and our efforts have been failures.

  17. This post, for me, is the most damning indictment yet of America’s policy for that region. (I say “region” because it doesn’t quite resemble a true functioning country at this point.) Your experience on the ground, your knowledge, the photographs… and of course history. It seems we never learn. Check that… it seems we try very hard not to learn! Frustrating.

    Thank you for your perspective.

    (So… when’s your “sit-down” with Mr. Obama?) ;^}

  18. Thanks Steve for putting a face on this difficult situation.
    Didn’t even Alexander the Great’s army get defeated in Afghanistan? Unfortunately this war is being fought for the “good” of the military industrial complexes, they are the real “winners” here!

  19. On a personal level to understand Afghanistan and through what people go trough there I would recommend Khaled Hosseini’s books “The Kite runner” and “Thousand Splendid Suns”. Those are fiction books, from native, very talented writer, who captured in lyrical, yet hauntingly poignant way how everyday life of regular people is. I think for westerners that is very hard to comprehend, complexity of rules and tradition, but peoples emotions and needs are the same all over the world. In his books he had captured one very human and everyday aspect of people living there in context of history and current events. I would say that this is a must read.

    Steve, I am privileged that I have met you and for your ongoing involvement and reporting and bringing through your stories and photograph this world to better understanding. I wish that we could really build better world on that.

    best wishes, wherever in the world you are.

  20. Thanks Steve, for sharing this picture journal. Your pictures do stand for a thousand words. This brings back recollections of a trip I did down the Basra highway into Muttalah creek in early 1991. Seeing bodies scattered in the desert, no one sane and humane could agree they were all enemies of a civilized world – but the victims of a massacre. Disproportionately high fire power used against a beaten and withdrawing army and civilians. Some day powerful nations have to learn to leave alone lesser known cultures to correct their own wrongs.

  21. Your Images are so real and moving, it stirrs the soul and causes one to question the imbalance of man’s behavoir and selfless ways, it is beyond question that so many don’t realize at all the pain and suffering that is just beyond our borders. at this rapid rate of change, we too here in america will
    join the many third world countries one day. Steve, We are thankful for your vision and insight, I don’t know how you deal with the pain you see, just glad you are able, your friend in photography. John C Flinchum

  22. If only someone was listening to wise words like these! We are, we agree but the ones who really have the matters in their hands, do they? Just read an article about you in New Strait Times (I live in Malaysia), very interesting, keep up the good work and spread more wise words and photos! Thanks! Nilla

  23. Striking photographs and thoughts.

    $300 billion?? Population of Afghanistan is roughtly 30 million. Imagine the US set out to spend $10000 per person in Afghanistan or say 10% of it, it had a much higher chance of creating “a peaceful country where families can thrive”.

    The question “How many officials based in Washington have stayed there more than a couple of days?” hits the heart of this catastrophe. So much wealth and human lives on both sides were spent “based on faulty assumptions”? This is tragic beyond words.

    • Anonymous Says:

      Special thanks to Steve,

      I’m living in Afghanistan and working as a graphic designer for German International Cooperation (GiZ).

      You talked about the $300 billion in Afghanistan, I just wanted to make you understand that here are lots of corruptions, I myself am seeing the corruptions by German employees in our office (GiZ), they never spend money in the right way and they themselves are always taking a percentage of the budgets in each projects illegally.

      My English is not perfect or good enough to tell you about many other problems being created by foreigners here in Afghanistan, but I feel glad facing this page and understood that there are people out there who really have human-loving thoughts. Thanks from anybody here

  24. Cristina Bacalso Says:

    Hi Steve,

    Thank you for sharing your photos – they are beautiful and very powerful.

    Are you on Twitter? I often post a link to your new entries on my Twitter site, however it would be good if I could just “re-tweet” you, and your fans could follow your new updates.

    Thank you once again for your work.

  25. Thanks for the photos;
    Let me introduce my point of view on the same matter:

  26. i just came back after a trip to western sahara and it’s amazing how other cultures have a different concept of what freedom victory and other subjects. Sometimes the western culture wants everything to be done in our way and we cannot accept the difference. I was really happy when i read your post today it shows that war is never the solution and that differences have to be understood your blog is in an inspiration keep up!!

  27. Heather B Says:

    Thank you for your incredible photo journalism…
    I see where you’re coming from and its very horrifying to see this reality that you describe in your realtime art.
    It’s atrocious when nothing productive is done
    to solve this hitleresque landscape that’s been created in the name of controlling the resouces
    throughout the middle east.
    We Americans are so blind and numb to all of the misery that our goverment has created with our tax dollars and we’re used to getting taken advantage of.
    We’ve been spoiled as a country somehow most Americans have forgotten what it means to truly care and look out for our neighbors. We are taught to be self serving and hedonistic, to the point of moral bankruptcy. It’s at this point it’s so evident.
    the house of petrified feces is crumbling.

  28. pray for peace for everybody, hope war & disater will leave us

  29. aldouswright Says:

    Brief, well formulated and oozing with emotions. Brilliant composition. Saddly faulty assumptions will always be there are we will only realize them when dire consequences come up.

  30. sunshinelollipop Says:

    Thanks for sharing this post

  31. James Sasongko Says:

    Excellent elaboration. It reminds me what Ivan Illich delivered in his speech in 1968: To hell with your good intentions. Perhaps, most of good intentions ever exist in the world came out from faulty assumptions. Nice piece on reviving that caveat!

  32. A_wandering_mind Says:

    fantastic post. Both depressing and eye opening at the same time.

  33. Great insight. Thanks for your thoughts. Nice work. Let’s hope somewhere in all this mess, Peace will emerge from the ashes.

  34. twobloggers Says:

    This title caught my eye, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from it. This post was sincerely writted and I greatly appreciated it. It gave me some things to think about. Thank you for writing this.

  35. The world, people need to see more images like this. This is a reality check!

    Do we want to continue calling out different names of gods and countries when the results always end up the same?

    Peace and Love is all we need. No Bible, Quran, Torah, flag or country… simply love everyone and tell the truth… period.

    Peace to all.

  36. The situation in Afghanistan is only going to get worse, and I am so disappointed that Obama has decided to take the path he chose. Sad. What can we do?

  37. Great job of telling it as you’ve seen it instead of repeating the endlessly repeated—what those who brought us the war would have us believe.
    I have a little problem with the “good intentions” part though. Some of the people who have been pressed into service may have some, but those who brought on the conflict and will determine it’s course and it’s end, they have none—not with regard to the people living there.
    You can talk about wanting to remove the Taliban, or improving the situation for Afghan women, or bringing democracy to the country, but none of these has ever been the real goal of the invasion. They are only valuable as excuses for it, that many people might get on board with…they have a useful PR value.
    In reality, the goals from the beginning have been to establish permanent military bases and to build a pipeline across the country, with the former being situated esactly along the route of the latter. Any excuses which will allow the US to do so, such as the above, are welcome and useful,
    maybe even necessary, but totally irrelevant when discussing the true motivations behind the war. The Taliban were friends in 2000 when their cooperation was sought. When they seemed reluctant, they were offered “a carpet of gold or a carpet of bombs” according to what decision they made regarding the pipeline plans. When they refused, they became the enemy, and some of their officials were given word that they would face an invasion in October of 2001. All of this before the 9/11 attacks occured. After the invasion, Karzai, a former employee of Unocal (a partner in the pipeline consortium) was installed as Prime Minister.
    There are no good intentions involved, only a quest for power and profit.

  38. These pictures are very saddening but kudos to you for showing the other side of war. I find that the Western media (like any country’s media) glorify their purpose for the war… or at least the supposed purpose that the government gives to the people. We don’t hear about the Afghan innocents that are murdered, or if we do hear something about them, they are called “insurgents” not innocents or civilians. War is ugly and it causes me great sadness that many people invade countries to war with them and that people actually support this.

  39. You placed some really graphic pictures up; however, it was the truth. This was very eye-opening for me!

  40. These photographs are incredibly moving, Steve.

    And the US govt.’s actions in this part of the world incredibly maddening.

    Thank you for highlighting this, though whether the powers-that-be will take notice is another matter altogether.

    Thanks again.

  41. Afghanistan has always been a hot-spot, one of the conflict zones of the world. The British were there a hundred years ago, seeking to use it as a buffer against an expanding Russia. Geo-political politics then as now dictated their involvement, and it was just as unsuccessful, and short-lived. Perhaps all we can hope for is a kind of containment of these areas in the world, like the Middle East, where on-going friction and low casualties is a better thing than full-blown war. One of the initially positive things of the invasion of Afghanistan, however much it was dictated by internal Ameercan politics, was the displacment of al-queda, and its dispersal to other areas in the region.

    What we have at the moment is a holding operation. I read of a British convoy that took seven days to deliver a load of wheat (to counter-act the opium production) the distance from London to Brighton – about 50 miles, because of Taliban hostility. That sort of logisitical commitment is not sustainable in the long run, nor effective in providing a sustainable economy to the Afghans.

    In some ways I think that instabillity in this and other regions is beneficial to the USA and the developed world. Like all foreign wars, they take up an enormous amount of media energy, and political argument/debate, diverting it from the internal reform of the institutions and policies within the countires themselves.

    • ” Like all foreign wars, they take up an enormous amount of media energy, and political argument/debate, diverting it from the internal reform of the institutions and policies within the countires themselves.”

      Well said. This post did shock me with the pictures, but I get why they are there. Nice work. There is still much to understand.

  42. Thank you, Steve, for showing us the world the way it needs to be seen. Can’t wait for your retrospective in Salo, Finland.

  43. j.w. severs Says:

    Steve, thank you for this work. Those of us who are awakening to the truth rather than what has been presented in the last three years need to be reminded daily. No greater reality check exists than the costs of war in lives. Every battle should be assessed on motive-Why are we doing this?
    What right do we have to continue? Under what law of our Constitution does the President and his blind followers in Congress have to continue this war?
    The Congress could bring this to a halt immediately, and they could have done so under Bush as well.

  44. Eloquently put.

  45. Poor Afghan people. Hope President Obama is sucessful in fixing past intromission and mistakes of Jimmie Carter administration.

  46. Surbhit Dixit Says:

    This is my first time to go through your blog. You just left me spellbound with your way of expressing the above so calmly yet so much direct. I am a huge fan of your photography skills and now of your blog too.

    Surbhit Dixit

  47. Didn’t our senators and congressmen see “Charlie Wilson’s War”?

  48. rynjhnsn Says:

    War is certainly an expensive venture. It always has been. And as far as the people in Washington deciding our militaristic actions in Central Asia: congress seems to rely on “experts” already. By bringing in consultants, forming committees, and relying on special reports from intelligence agencies (CIA, FBI, ISI, MI6 and the like) our government attempts to form sound decisions.

    However, the problem, in my opinion, rests on not our misunderstanding of culture, history, etc. which are primarily academic things. Our problem lies on our willingness as a country to allow others to fight our wars for us. Our problem stems from our desire to see wars fought with as few feet on the ground as possible. As in Afghanistan early on, US was hesitant to use anything but SOF soldiers and Northern Alliance fighters.

    Our policies on nation building lacked as well. Had we stayed in Afghanistan and helped the nation rebuild, instead of move on quickly to Iraq, we may have seen a different outcome.

    All this to say, culture, history, and the like play little part in the problem. Our misunderstanding stems from a general lack of commitment to the countries we invade. We invade, overthrow, and leave the UN to clean up our mess. The region is complex, with multi-cultural problems, histories, and peoples. To assume that by reading a few books would solve the problem is ridiculous, in my opinion.

    Pakistan, for example, supported the Taliban and Al Quaeda during our invasion of Afghanistan. We had no idea how strong the rivalry was between India and Pakistan: enough so to cause Pakistan to support the Taliban. False intelligence from Pakistan also played a huge role in some of our mistakes.

    Our goals in Afghanistan were clear from day one. Oust the Taliban. Bring democracy to a nation that harbors terrorist groups. It seems our goals in Iraq were less clear. And our policies on rebuilding both nations were non-existent.

    I do sincerely believe an educated population of citizens will elect geopolitically informed, concerned officials. I think the citizens of the US are grossly ignorant when it comes to everything outside its own borders. Almost 3rd world when it comes to knowing international happenings. Just my opinion. Thanks for the post. I’m always excited to see people dialoguing about this.

  49. I agree that Three Cups of Tea should be required reading, not only for everyone in Washington but all the talking heads who have so much to say about it and are so willing to share their opinions. (when they have never been there.) They should also visit your blog!

    Thank you as always for your art and insight.

  50. Hard pictures, strong, sober, precise words. I wish that voices like yours would have been heard before taking the road to disaster. Now it is much more complicated to end that engagement. At the moment it seems that the U.S. administration does lack fresh ideas: the recipes are “more of the same”, but I cannot see any indications of success.

  51. Dear Steve,
    May your spectacular photographic works make people realize how devastating the impact of war is on especially the innocent.

    You are one of my photography idols.

  52. nwdaisymom Says:

    Thank you for writing this and publishing these photos. I am not well versed in politics nor do I have any desire to be. However, I can clearly see we have crossed a line from helping to hindering. I fear we have shifted from our original intentions of invasion to attempting to create another America. I feel we have lost our sight. Thank you for your insight and sharing your experience.

  53. […] was one of the blogs highlighted on the wordpress homepage and the subject line “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” caught my eye. it turned out to be the blog of photojournalist steve […]

  54. Sobering

  55. Danny de Gracia II Says:

    Thanks for this post. We definitely need to get out of Afghanistan and come home. I’m reminded of a saying the Afghans have: “You may have the watch, but we have the time.”

  56. I am a 91year old greatgrandmother, and it is very sad that our gov’t leaders fail to perceive the fallibility of becoming involved in age-old violence-inclined foreign countries” wars and battles… almost blindly past-sighted, historically. Yes, those who do not learn from history ARE bound to REPEAT it! I could expect it from Bush…but Obama? Is his reason that if we interefere from here, that we are “safe” from their attacks coming HERE? I pray for my little great grandchildren’s future in this worldly future environment…. God help us all!….

    • Dear Ethel,
      Many thanks for your insightful comments. I appreciate your reading of my blog.

    • j.w. severs Says:

      Ethel, why would Obama be any different? Only because the American people were sold a President by advertising. The man has no track record of either kindliness or experience. He is part of the Chicago democratiic party machine, and there is no crueler, self centered organisation. History shows this, and the future will bare it out. Foreign entanglements were to be the downfall of this country, only fools would continue what shows to be failure.

  57. I don’t know if i’d put war in a sentence with good intentions. war is never a good intention.

    • I don’t think the war, per se, is the good intention. Rather, the good intention is to get the Talibans out of Afghanistan, and give Afghans a chance at a peaceful life.

      I do agree with you that war IS never a good intention, but sometimes the intentions and rationales of war allow for war to become a (so-called) “good intention”.

      • Lynn,

        By good intentions, I mean that we all want Afghanistan to prosper and for the people to live in a country without violence. For example, under the Taliban women suffered terribly, and no one wants that to happen ever again.

        My point is that we are going about it the wrong way. More troops and thousands of contractors serve as a recruiting tool for Taliban and Al Qaeda. Even with all of the money and all of the “boots” we are still losing ground. That seems to be a pretty strong indication that we are missing some important lessons of history.

  58. blackwatertown Says:

    To Jordi & anyone else interested – A very good book on Afghanistan and other counter insurgency situations in The Accidental Guerrilla by David Kilcullen – an Australian who advises the US military. There’s an extract and some information about it here
    It’s very clear about unintended consequences and how more boots on the ground, if they’re the wrong boots or deployed in the wrong way, can make a bad situation far far worse.
    I recommend reading it.

  59. The US has a very poor record of military intervention over the past 50 + years because of the US’ inability fully understand the causes, conditions and cultures of the nations that we, as a nation, get entangled with. Much of this likely extends for our historic isolation from the old world which, coupled with an irrational baseline paranoia (the odd, McCarthy/Nixonian type which preceded 9/11) and gluttonous appetite for natural resources. Afghanistan and Iraq may be another in a long line of failed interventions that include Indonesia, Vietnam, and Iran to name a few. But only time will tell in this case.

    • j.w. severs Says:

      Nixon? let us not forget LBJ, a man who left bodies on the ground in the U.S. before he left them in S.E. Asia.
      The present administration uses this war to continue the economic destruction of the United States, and solidify centralist governance in a country founded on the ideals of freedom from government.

  60. Snædís Says:

    How can horror appear so beautiful? I wonder this gazing at your photograph of ‘Dead Afghan Soldier, Jalalabad, Afghanistan’…

    Your work is astounding, but more so is your deep humanness shining through it all.

    Thank you.


  61. ninjacheeze Says:

    I don’t really follow what happens in the war, so I really have a hard time understanding this, but I love the pictures you posted, and how they show what the consequences of war can be. I started crying when I saw these pictures. And you’re right: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The problem is that intentions which are based on faulty assumptions are doomed to failure.” Im an amateur artist, and this has inspired what will be the best piece I have every done. Thank you for the very moving post. Keep up the good work!

  62. To wage a war on multiple countries over the actions of a couple is lunacy. To wage war on terror is lunacy. To wage war is lunacy. There is nothing wrong with defending yourself but what are we defending ourselves from? The lives and the money spent on nothing will need to be accounted for one day. These are the best examples of why we still haven’t left the dark ages. Our leaders still prefer an eye for an eye, and both walk away blind.

    Realize this. This is the design. This is how it is supposed to be until we awake from our slumber and realize this nightmare doesn’t need to continue anymore. But first we all need to wake up.


  63. The ideas expressed here aren’t new, but you’ve made them hit much harder, given them some bite, by pairing them with very strong images. Excellent work.

  64. IQBAL SELVAN Says:

    You showed us what was hidden or unknown to the rest of the world.. Hells like Afghanistan, Sri Lankan still exist in this world were we are enjoying our morning cafe, and our favorite TV shows…

  65. Other than major changes to the Rules of Engagement which got more soldiers an marines killed, the denizens of DC spent 2009 dawdling on Afghanistan.

  66. Wondering why now? Centuries this way of coping has been ongoing. What is so different now. Technology. The answers are available if an when we know where to look. As a grandparent I want dearly that my grandkid’s know how to look, what questions are not being asked, to judge where they are not seeing, hearing and understanding. A message to the bullies the world over… beware the kids. they are to innocently knowledgeable to not seek out what they want to know.

  67. I think this was a great post. I agree with some of the commenters above who think that charities like Pennies for Peace (Greg Mortinson) are the answer. I absolutely agree. And although I voted for Obama, I totally think that he misjudged the situation in Afghanistan. He is not looking at the deeper causes of the conflict. And conventional war will not fix anything. We don’t understand the terrain, the culture, the people, the problems. How can we do anything when we do not understand the fundamental construct of Afghan society?

  68. Amazing work! I have to side with you, I have no idea what the world superpowers are doing and Im sure they dont either. I just listened to a CBC radio interview with one of our leaders over in Afghanistan after 4 more of our soldiers and a reported were killed. The interviewer was asking about our new strategy to win the civilians over to our side to help us out and it is clearly not working..and its not going to work. They know that we are not going to be there forever and the Taliban is.I am not going to claim I have the answers, but clearly the great minds running the war dont either.

  69. Mr McCurry,

    I love the way you’ve expressed the above, its so calm and direct.
    I did not know the blog was you’r until I read you name at the bottom. I just happened to come upon it while browsing the main site. Just wanted to tell you that I’ve been a huge fan of your work.
    In response to your post, I feel its sad to say that officials, politicians, etc. completely understand the situation. It’s not rocket science that needs heavy explanation to figure out that violence will only breed more violence.
    Unfortunately, due to various pressures, agendas and requisites, they choose not to listen. Its part of life. Its been this way since colonialization started. My country India has been plundered of unimaginable wealths, by the British, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.

  70. i am moved by this entry and the photos youve taken. i hate what u cover but im thankful for what ur doing. it has inspired a poetic response on my blog.

  71. […] inspired by the photography of  steve mccurry […]

  72. great blog! i was really moved by the pictures that you posted.

  73. Phillip Frangules Says:

    Very disturbing. You make a lot of good points.

  74. irkhamov Says:

    I believe, if we look at wars, including afghan war recently,merely from humanity view, it’s much more simple to understand. The problem is, the invisible hands that play behind the scene, with so many interests they pour into it. In this downturn economy, selling weaponry in a peace world is not easy. A world of conflict offers more opportunity to such industry than any other situations.

  75. Hi Steve,

    Wishing you very Happy New Year…

    Expecting to see some peace, love, joy, happiness…. Some effortless pleasant viewing:)


  76. aswirly Says:

    I’m not really sure what to say… Your images paired with your experience and insight provide so much food for thought and a glimpse into a world many of us never see.

  77. Thanks for sharing Steve. Not only understand the problem in Afghanistan, but the problem in the world in general. The problem arise between culture and religions and where it started and who started it…..

  78. Just think what we could accomplish with $300 billion if we took as a model the work of the Central Asia Institute – I sure hope Obama reads 3-Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools – that is if he really wants to help these people. Thanks for all you do – really inspiring.

    • I agree. Both of Mortensen’s books should be on a required reading list for
      everyone in Congress, State, Defense, etc.

      Thanks for reading my blog.

  79. Hi Steve

    It’s good see your images that capture the ugly side of war have been put on your blog! The pictures coupled with your writing is extremely powerful & I hope the big wigs out there can maybe take on board your views! The whole thing is sad…

    “The days are here – where the innocent don’t know why they are getting killed and the killers don’t know why they are killing”

    This is a famous Afghan term but very few here in the West and other parts of the world spend time seriously thinking about this.

    • “The days are here – where the innocent don’t know why they are getting killed and the killers don’t know why they are killing”

      Perfect Statement.


  80. Amazing work! I have to side with you, I have no idea what the world superpowers are doing and I’m sure they don’t either. I just listened to a CBC radio interview with one of our leaders over in Afghanistan after 4 more of our soldiers and a reported were killed. The interviewer was asking about our new strategy to win the civilians over to our side to help us out and it is clearly not working…..and it’s not going to work. They know that we are not going to be there forever and the Taliban is.

    I am not going to claim I have the answers, but clearly the great minds running the war don’t either.

  81. Hi Steve,

    As you seem to know so well the country. Could you recommend some books on Afghan history, explaining and helping to understand the reality of this country and its character?

    Thanks a lot,


    • Thanks for reading my blog.

      Perhaps the best book ever written on Afghanistan is the book by Louis Dupree simply called Afghanistan. History, culture, ethnology,etc. etc. is covered in detail by a scholar who lived in the country for decades.


  82. So incredibly well put. I am an American who lives in India and I so often wish that more people would get out of their “Western Civilization” realities and see what the rest of the world is actually like. It does not matter how many news specials you watch or insightful books you read, you just can not understand this part of the world until you have spent some time here. I have lived here for two years and I am well aware that it would take many, many more to scratch deeper than the surface.

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