Who are our troops leaving behind in Afghanistan?
Nearly every American unit patrolling around Afghanistan has an Afghan component, be it police, army, border patrol, commando, local police or national civil order police.
Their capabilities, however, vary widely. Some of this may be due to training. At some outposts, American soldiers spend a few hours each day rehearsing battle drills with the Afghan soldiers in an empty parking lot. At others, there is essentially no interaction between the two forces.
In some areas, the Afghan army intimidates the people and steals from them, but the police have a good rapport with the people. In others, the police are the problem, while the army does well.
In the more volatile districts in the southern provinces, like Zhari, Arghandab and Sangin, Afghan troops are considered a destabilizing force because of their conflicts with the local people.
Afghan soldiers working in the south are overwhelmingly recruited from the north and east of the country. Culturally speaking, they may as well be from another planet.
The northern Tajik soldiers often view the southern Pashtun people as inferior, and believe they are motivated only by self-interest and influenced only by force or fear.
The Pashtun men view both American and Afghan troops as occupying forces, and generally aren’t interested in joining their ranks.
But for every dozen destitute Tajik teenagers thrown into an Afghan military uniform and marched to the southern minefields, there is a battle-hardened mujahideen sergeant with scars from fighting off Soviet troops in the 1980s, working alongside them.
These leaders are made of stern stuff, and have the ability to hold their platoons together under incredibly difficult conditions.
Cultural and linguistic barriers made it difficult to gain clear insight about their honest prognoses for a post-NATO Afghanistan, but I follow them and photograph them nonetheless, hoping their faces and actions will show something their voices will not tell.
- Ben Brody
You can see more of Ben Brody's work at his website.