Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus has been covering conflicts from Bosnia to Afghanistan for more than 20 years, earning a Pulitzer Prize in 2005, as part of a team of AP photographers covering the Iraq War. She has traveled to Afghanistan numerous times, photographing events from 2001 until today, sending photos from Kandahar as recently as yesterday. Documenting a decades-long story like the Afghanistan War is a challenge for any photojournalist, from simple logistical issues, to serious safety concerns, to the difficulty of keeping the narrative fresh and compelling. Niedringhaus has done a remarkable job, telling people’s stories with a strong, consistent voice, an amazing eye for light and composition, and a level of compassion that clearly shows through her images. Gathered here are just a handful of her photos from the war-torn nation, part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan.
The average cost of each U.S. troop—that is, each military member—in Afghanistan will nearly double in the last year of the war to $2.1 million, according to a new analysis of the Pentagon’s budget.
For the past five years, from fiscal 2008 through 2013, the average troop cost had held steady at roughly $1.3. million. But the Pentagon’s 2014 war budget would dramatically increase that figure. The added cost, argue Defense Department officials, is a reflection of the price of sending troops and equipment back home in the drawdown.
Read more. [Image: Shamil Zumatov/Reuters]
A bulldozer. A radio. A pencil. A Koran. These are just a few of the candidates vying to win Afghanistan’s upcoming presidential election.
For each of the 10 candidates expected to be on the ballot for the April 5 vote, there is a symbol. And those symbols will be printed on ballot papers alongside the name and photograph of each candidate to help voters choose their preferred candidate.
The idea is to make voting easier for the many eligible voters in the country who cannot read. Only 39 percent of Afghanistan’s adult population is literate.
In keeping with elections dating back to 2004, the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) initially assigned a symbol to each potential candidate assuming that there would be a high number of contenders to choose from.
Read more. [Image: Omar Sobhani/Reuters]
While the U.S. military can win wars with overwhelming firepower, the conventional wisdom is that the U.S. lacks effective civilian tools to win the peace. Afghanistan’s public health care system provides a powerful counterpoint: financed largely by American foreign aid, it has produced the most rapid increase in life expectancy observed anywhere on the planet. What went right? And why do American auditors and Congressional overseers suddenly want to pull the plug?
In late 2011, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced some astonishing news about progress in health and mortality in Afghanistan. The new findings came from the release of the 2010 Afghanistan Mortality Survey, the largest survey of its kind ever undertaken in Afghanistan. The survey showed that from 2004 to 2010, life expectancy had risen from just 42 years—the second lowest rate in the world—to 62 years, driven by a sharp decline in child mortality. As a result, nearly 100,000 Afghan children per year who previously would have died now don’t.
Read more. [Image: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]
Child-rights icon Malala Yousafzai has called on conspiracy theorists and critics in Pakistan to think about her message before condemning her. In an interview, Malala says her intentions in promoting the rights of girls and women are pure.
Over the past few months here, I’ve focused on different aspect of the ongoing war in Afghanistan, featuring the region in the 1950s and 60s, the children of war, and the women of the war. Today’s entry takes a look at events that took place in Afghanistan this summer. For Afghans, the violence continues, and deep uncertainty remains as they prepare for a presidential election next April, and the withdrawal of NATO troops by the end of next year. The photos here are part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has some of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world, and a high concentration of donkeys.
Enter the maternity saddle — a new invention that promises to carry women in labor across Afghanistan’s difficult terrain so they can get the medical care they need.
The British charity HealthProm and designer Peter Muckle developed the inflatable donkey saddle to ease the burden on women about to give birth in remote areas of Afghanistan.
The lack of suitable transport in mountainous areas leads many pregnant women to opt against heading to health centers in favor of giving birth at home, raising the risks for both mother and child should complications arise.
Read more. [Image: Screenshot HealthProm]
Afghanistan can be found just 120 miles northeast of Los Angeles, California — well, an approximation of Afghanistan at least. In the Mojave Desert, the U.S. Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin is home to several mock villages built to create realistic training environments for troops due to be deployed overseas. Two of the largest “villages” have been used to represent several fictional towns in Iraq and Afghanistan, with names such as Medina Wasl, Ertebat Shar, Razish, and Medina Jabal. Units undergo training scenarios, exposing them to a realistic version of their “worst day ever,” surrounded by military and civilian actors portraying Afghan locals, police, and insurgents. Simulations include the detonation of IEDs, rocket attacks, suicide bombings, as well as practice with crowd control, interaction with locals, and providing aid. The mock combat includes exposure to realistic horrific injuries, with real-life amputees portraying victims who have had limbs blown off, complete with gory prosthetics and fake blood. The photos here show a few of these villages during several different training missions over the past few years.
The present war in Afghanistan, now nearly 12 years old, has affected the lives of millions of women. Many have been victimized; others have played the roles of soldiers, insurgents, politicians, caregivers, and much more. NATO nations have sent thousands of female troops into the conflict, assigned to combat teams as well as support positions. And the women of Afghanistan have been caught in attacks from all sides — restricted by conservative laws, traumatized by bombings, and victimized at home. According to the UN, the rate of violence against Afghan women is on the rise, even as the number of civilian casualties have been dropping. As western nations begin their draw-down, training and literacy programs are ramping up, in the hopes for a stronger role for the women of Afghanistan after 2014. The photos here are part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan.
KABUL — Kabul is not kind to drivers. It’s a city still expanding between mountains from which rival warlords used to lob ordnance at one another, and the legacy of those men who once laid waste to what was below remains here, on the streets, in the craters they left behind. Here, being a driver means knowing intimately — feeling, even — the history of a country and its conflict, as it’s written in every little dimple in the street. And you can learn a lot about the place from the people who spend their days navigating it.
My first friend here was a driver, a kind, hilarious kid named “Aimal,” but whose name was so often bungled by foreigners that he courteously offered to let us call him “Email.”
Email worked the roads with such skill and precision that after our rides across the city I would get out of the car feeling actually inspired—he never hit a pothole, not a single one in all the time he took me around his country, and it wasn’t because he was blessed with any kind of exceptional vision. He just seemed to know where they all were. He must have known by heart the location of every last surface anomaly, because there are no signs to tell you where a ditch or speed bump is, and in all the time he spent driving foreigners around his country, he never once bottomed out.
And Email modeled for me an attitude about the foreign presence that, over the years, I came to find generalizable across much of the population: He was gracious to foreigners, thankful to most of them, and friendly to the ones in his cars, but not the ones in armored convoys. Those he would taunt and tease; he would follow them too closely, and when they waved their weapons at him, or flashed their spotlights to blind him at night, he would anger quickly. “This is my country,” he would say. “These are my roads.” He was possessive in those moments, and he judged both foreigners by how they used his roads, and his leaders by who built the best ones. “Daoud Khan was great man,” Email said once, “he built roads and they last 40 years. Now you know the roads are not great but okay; now they make road and one year, one half year later it’s bad already.”
Read more. [Image: Muhammad Ismail/Reuters]