The Longest War

Kabul Cemetery

As hard as outsiders have tried to subdue and “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 is that the people trying to change it,

change more than the country does even after
Herculean efforts of governments, NGO’s, and coalitions.

Burning School, Kabul

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

Mujahadeen head toward Kabul as Russians leave

In spite of the failed attempt by the powerful Soviet army
to bring the country under its control,

the “deciders” still had the fantasy that we could do what
hadn’t been done before.

 Those “deciders” did not have even the basic
understanding of the country, the history, the people,

the terrain, the language, the religion, the culture.

Mujahadeen holds up decapitated head of Afghan Army soldier

Lieut. Col. Daniel Davis, in an analysis of the situation in Afghanistan titled, “Truth, Lies,
and Afghanistan” published in The Armed Forces Journal in February, 2012, wrote,
“I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level”
in his rebuttal to the military’s assertion that the war was going well and that the Coalition
was making progress.  He charged the military leadership with misleading
the American public.

Red Cross Hospital

Davis reported that he had repeatedly seen top commanders
falsely dress up dismal situations including
General Petreus in testimony to Congress.

Red Cross Hospital, Kabul

During the months I traveled with the Mujahadeen, I witnessed a deep camaraderie
amongst the fighters who were on the greatest mission of their lives.
They weren’t looking at the calendar.

They didn’t even worry much about casualty numbers.
The harder the fight was, the stronger they became.

Mujahadeen with family members cross into Pakistan

Walking in the snow without boots high up in the Hindu Kush was commonplace.

Those men were as tough as it gets.



Military Hospital in Kabul

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies,
in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.
This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers,
the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
This is not a way of life at all in any true sense.
Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
– Dwight David Eisenhower

Former Soldier in Makeshift Mental Hospital

88 Responses to “The Longest War”

  1. Powerful and sensitive Images ….left me disturbed !!!!!!!!

  2. Thank you for all your images. Love the writing too. Such a gift, you yourself are – to us. Cheers

  3. Great………..

  4. Very strong and sincere content. Incredible photography and an equally powerful messages behind the photos.

  5. I was very glad and my family very relieved to find that soviet army was withdrawing from Afghanistan in Spring 1989.
    If they would have left few months later I could have been another “Russian” casualty in this disgusting war… and may be Steve’s subject to photograph. Russians were so cynical about the war… I know one Russian, former officer, who has got medal he received in Kabul in 80’s, – medal says: “ from grateful afghan people”………….. Awesome and powerful work, Steve! Cheers, Leo

  6. […] does even after Herculean efforts of governments, NGO’s, and coalitions.” (Steve McCurry, The Longest War). From: notebook No comments […]

  7. I have rarely seen so powerful images which can tell many stories…great work

  8. l n nagaraj Says:

    Excellent Photos of Trama, Tragic and Horrors of war !!
    Steve, do we need this war ?

  9. Incredible photos … so horrific. I have a friend who escaped with her life to Pakistan and is now in the U.S. along with her children who were traumatized by the war and all the things they saw. Her husband (who was killed) -his family had a fatwa on her head because she had converted to Christianity, which is why the UN sent her here. Anyway, it’s all so awful and what should be done? Is there anything NGO can do if the military leaves? Will it be to dangerous to stay?

  10. I totally agree with Sujoy… powerfully, arresting, and supremely hard to look at and very difficult to turn away.

  11. Its hard to look at these images – powerful, arresting and disturbing at the same time. Congrats Steve.

  12. To me. this is the real power of photography. We have to learn.

  13. Life has no shortage of pain and suffering.

  14. Arrresting, striking photographs. Too bad we haven’t seem more of them on the front pages of American newspapers. Ken

  15. Andrea rossitravel Says:

    …the never ending pray.

  16. […] las fotos de Steve McCurry en Afganistan. Aviso: algunas son muy […]

  17. Anupam Nath Says:


  18. Laura Carraro Says:

    Le parole non riescono a descrivere ciò che le tue immagini sanno raccontare . Grazie Steve

  19. […] McCurry: a guerra no Afeganistão. Vale a pena ler os textos. Publicado: 01-03-12 Arquivado em: […]

  20. Amazing pictures! You are the best photographer in the world according to me. Period.

  21. […] The Longest War « Steve McCurry's Blog Kabul […]

  22. These images will definitely be part of Afghanistan’s and World’s history.

  23. intikab habib Says:

    Empires have strived to reduced the human race to be lower than the lowest and this will continue until empires are controled by men of virtues.

  24. when will the “deciders” learn, this place just belongs to their native people…and they had been managing their affairs for centuries…..
    love the way the story has been captured….

  25. Fantastic pictures. What more can I say?

  26. Marco Franco Says:

    Hello Steve, congratulations for these daring and shocking photos. I love documentary photography and could feel the drama of each of these pictures… Marco Franco (Brazil)

  27. Great shots and harsh documents about human stupidity (of too many people and in too many senses). I have no more words because in this case, the images speak too loud and too clear.

  28. Having had their fun in Afghanistan , Iraq and Libya. The Neocons will now chose between Iran, Pakistan and Syria were rivers of blood must flow! The US Congress has already decided to break Pakistan on the same basis as former Yugoslavia, by abetting with those Baluch chieftains who keep their people in chains to openly revolt and demand their independence. With one stone the neocons plan to divide Iran to four diffferent states on same lines as Yugoslavia. I hope my friend Steve McCurry whom I met in 1980 in Quetta with Lauren Stockbower will prepare himself for this new adventure of the NEW WORLD ORDER.

  29. OnlyChildPrincesses Says:


  30. This really brings home, the horrors of war.

  31. Wow! So intense and powerful pictures!

  32. Rachel S. Says:

    Merci de partager avec nous. Votre travail est toujours magnifique de vérité


  34. Shahid tantray Says:

    These are Breath taking Picture…I salute you

  35. Such pictures will surely be historically archived not only for the rare and unparalleled photographic excellence but also for the incredible stories which could not be told in any number of words.

    Steve, we salute your great contribution!

  36. Gurudatta Says:

    shocking, why war, no one will be able to take the earth, why people dont understand.

  37. Anonymous Says:

    Sad,Beautiful and Very powerful images !!!

  38. Incredible images – thank you for sharing the beautiful and the difficult.

  39. Gut wrenching , Powerful & Pulverizing – Images ++

  40. I could only say “Oh my God” by looking at all these images..

  41. Thank you, Steve, for some very disturbing images. Thanks for risking yourself to tell us this story. May your words and images bring forth some new, fruitful direction, for both the foreign military forces and the Afghan people.

  42. Outstanding work, its really hard to swallow all that pain humans bring to each other.

  43. After America’s general backlash to Obama apologising about the Koran-burning, it is all the more important that there are posts like these – showing quite how far ‘the deciders’ don’t understand a country, culture and people far removed from their own.
    Thank you for sharing, documenting and commenting with, as always stunning and moving visuals.

  44. such sad, beautiful, powerful images. the more we can learn about the realities of war and the lives of our fellow human beings through the work of brave photographers, the better we can understand one another, and hopefully improve the condition of our world.

  45. Extraordinarias imágenes. Pero por sobre todo resalta la enorme humanidad de Steve McCurry a la hora de comunicar lo que ve. Una vez más nos demuestra, con su talento y su empatía, que estamos siempre rodeados de lo mejor y lo peor de los seres humanos. Por un lado la codicia y la estupidez de Occidente, por otro el orgullo de un pueblo que a pesar de su pobreza en términos materiales (comparada con lo que nosotros consideramos riqueza) todavía es capaz de darnos lecciones de honor. Gracias una vez más, Steve, por darnos la oportunidad de ser testigos.

  46. Incredible! Thanks!

  47. I’ve grown so used to news reports about war, which number the dead but never show them, that it was startling to see the images of corpses in your photo essay. Thank you for your unswerving focus on the truth.

  48. Alas, we can only read, share and forget …
    Reality out there is far beyond our imagination … Perhaps, only one who suffered and witnessed can feel the intensity of pain.
    …… Are we human or just homo-sapiens?
    …. what have we accomplished to acknowledge human title? . . .

    Indeed! thanks to the author for sharing !

    • T Q Clock Says:

      tragic, grievous, disturbing . . .
      my god, my god, why have we forsaken —
      will we not yield, understand, embrace one another
      ?? Here only tears, wailing, and deep sorrow. oh why??

  49. It is very disturbing to watch live example of destruction of the country, while we are living in self satisfying as cultured & developing world ………

  50. Reblogged this on Oxford School of Photography and commented:
    You may be aware of our great appreciation of Steve McCurry, it is apleasure to re-blog from his site. This series of images are some of the hardest hitting he has, not for the sqeamish but certainly for those who like exceptional images

  51. Heartbreaking photography. Thank you for sharing.

  52. Daniel Quiroga Says:

    tus fotos son lo maximo eres el mejor .. soy un fan tuyo .. saludos desde Perú …

  53. My jaw dropped to the floor. What a waste of resources, intellect, time, money… World has to wake up to stop wars.

  54. Beautiful photos, as always…and moving words, too. Thank you for the Eisenhower quote…

  55. Your pictures always have the power to ‘TELL”. But here yours quotes are stronger. Afghanistan is the theater of our word, squized between opposated dictatures. The attempt of the occident to bring “democracy”there or there is just a fairy tale. Only geopolitical stuff motivates them. But this only leads to increase the opposate dictature. And in the middle of the field, simple people suffer, die.
    No evolution comes by guns…

  56. those images are really sad and touch my heart, wonderfull !!
    Greetings from Indonesia

  57. Lori Hudson Says:

    Nothing can change if no one knows the truth. Thank you for being brave enough to show the truth. You are a blessing to us all.

  58. Your images are so powerful that people should think thousand times before they engage in war or flexing their mussels.Is this the world we all dreamed for? Thank you Steve.

  59. stunning photos about war and effect of war.

  60. Thank you for sharing

  61. Thank you for sharing, Steve.

  62. For a second , I thought your images shifted from the majestic to the reality but then, I realized, it was the same all the while. Powerful images, Steve… How did you get to travel with the Mujahiddeen?

  63. Disturbing realities. They are hard to stomach, but important to see, if only so we stop engaging in senseless battle.

  64. Who am I crying out to that this stop?
    Who knows the truth?
    How do you process this, Steve. My heart goes out to you, too!

  65. Oh my goodness, what amazing, horrific and powerful photographs. Taking those must have been incredibly hard. Thank you for sharing these.

  66. Life…literally has no meaning in Afghanistan with the kind of things happening…still, Hope is the biggest thing waiting…great work!

  67. Nicola Turner Says:

    words can not express , The silent voice of your work speaks of the reality & truth…!!!!!

    Macabre & amazing in the same breath..

  68. Thanks Steve for your pictures. I hope everyone think about the war and its sad images

  69. Thank you Steve for sharing…

  70. Anita Nichols Says:

    My Aunt and Uncle spent about 30 years in Afghanistan, then the Russians came so the americans were sent home. Aunt and Uncle went to Pakistan as missionaries and helped smuggle Afghan’s across the border to safety. They were both 80 years old at that time. I am glad they are not alive to see what has happened to the those countries and the people. Thank you Steve for taking the time and having the courage to record these terrible events.

  71. Sayambhu Choudhury Says:

    My heart skipped beats to see these photographs.

  72. Thanks Steve,I hope the world comes to see

  73. Reblogged this on Jenny's Serendipity and commented:
    Pictures says it all..Sad but powerful pictures of War.

  74. Sad images of war
    Men never learn

  75. I was living and working next door in Pakistan at the time Afghanistan’s rebuff of the Russian attempt at occupation, and formed an empathy with this land that has seen so many foolish and vain attempts to ‘modify’ their culture and politics – this superb essay brings back a despair …

  76. Very hard pictures, but really impressive too.

    Thank you for your photographs Steve, I love them.

  77. A very nice work. Impressive moments.

  78. Quite simply, I am blown away by these images. At first, I didn’t want to look. I knew that they would be painful and would be seared in my memory. I was right. This is the power of photography and you have captured stories and souls. Probably even before Bush invaded Iraq, I lost faith in the American government to tell us the truth about what was happening. Nothing has changed. Every day I look at the newspaper to see the reports of people dying around the world. It makes me so sad and yet I feel so powerless to do anything about it.

  79. excellent. blazko says it for me.

    i read the article in the newyorker before the u.s. went into afghanistan about the gas pipeline and could see the invasion coming. i fell for the lies in december 2010 and believed in obama when he wanted to stay the course.

    thank you for sharing with us in both words and pictures a little glimpse of the truth.

    it goes without saying that thus far, we have seen little or none of these kinds of pictures in america throughout the duration of this longest war.

  80. Emilia Asensio Says:

    Impressive work. Shocking, awesome pictures.

  81. Beautiful and horrible in one breath.
    Cannot imagine how it feels to be there and make those photo’s. You’re a brave man!
    kind regards, Corina

  82. Mother of God!
    Your photos, moments, eye, experience makes me cry from admiration.

  83. Anonymous Says:

    Incredibly powerful images…

    Greg UK

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