February 26, 2013
Closing Scenes from America’s Afghan War #2
Two weeks ago, we featured a series of Reuters images exhibiting a heaping dose of irony surrounding the coming US withdrawal from Afghanistan. From the news yesterday, that exit may be coming sooner than planned, at least in one province, and not to the Pentagon’s liking.
According to the NYT, US Special Forces (the term apparently representing a wide semantic umbrella to the Afghanis) have now been barred from operating in the Maidan Wardak Province. The decision was based on what the government says were (yet to be disclosed) acts of abuse. That article is illustrated by a photo by Bryan Denton featuring a resident and an Afghan soldier on a road, no American in sight. If that photo is informative, if stinging for the presence of (US) absence, Mr. Denton’s photos taken south and to the west in Kandahar are arguably even emptier.
I don’t believe these photos were published widely, if at all, but that would be understandable. The lead image and the ones above leave not just a bitter taste but build on the archive of leaving Dodge. In that top image, it’s not Saigon and a lunge for the helicopters. It’s something much slower, bureaucratic and fatefully ceremonial than that: the burning of the documents before turning over the post.
The next three are beautifully sad, the map mural nearly pock-marked to death. … Notice Kandahar, by the way, the province in the green, the one third from the right at the lowest part of the map, most of its top half gone.
Next, a photo of which there are many variations to be found. It’s another kid who, as Denton states in the caption: “pantomimed shooting US soldiers … as they conducted a combat patrol in his village.”
And finally, we have the companion shot to the photo leading off the previous “exit” post – that other tent, too, in Kandahar. Except this one is empty, the scene not cinematic at all, just forlorn.
(photos: Bryan Denton/Corbis caption 1: A soldier with Bravo Co. 3rd Battalion, 1st Armored Division burned sensitive military documents at Strong Point Haji Ramaddin 2—a US position that his unit vacated the following day, transitioning the post to Afghan National Army forces. The post is one of many established by US forces during the Surge in Kandahar that are now closing as the US begins to withdraw combat forces from Afghanistan. caption 2: Afghanistan Bullet holes scarred a map of Afghanistan painted on the wall of a school in the village of Tieranon, in the Pashmul area of Kandahar’s Zharay district. Pashmul has been the scene of some of the heaviest fighting in the area since the United States began their Surge into the Kandahar Agrarian belt in 2010.caption 3: A young resident of the village of Malanay, in Pashmul, Kandahar Province pantomimed shooting US soldiers from Bravo Co. 3rd Battalion, 1st Armored Division as they conducted a combat patrol in his village. Pashmul, which is located in the hotly contested Zharay district—where Mullah Omar founded the Taliban—has been the scene of some of the heaviest fighting throughout the US Surge in Kandahar Province. caption 4: Afghanistan Pvt Musa Hussein, right, of Brighton Beach, New York, and Specialist “Gonzo” Gonzales, left, of Bravo Co. 3rd Battalion, 1st Armored Division spent the final moments in their empty tent before their platoon vacated Strong Point Haji Ramaddin 2, leaving it to the Afghan National Army, and consolidating themselves at a larger base nearby. Linked photo: Andrew Burton/Reuters caption : A soldier from 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry leaves a room while checking the inventory of weapons at Strong Point DeMaiwand, Maywand District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, January 20, 2013.)