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Who are our troops leaving behind in Afghanistan? Faces of the Afghan Army
Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

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.

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An Afghan employee of convoy security contractor USPI begs for water from U.S. troops at FOB Ramrod after being severely wounded during a Taliban ambush. July 7, 2010.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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An Afghan Army radio operator on patrol in Kandahar. July 21, 2010.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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Afghan National Army soldiers, some of them barely teenagers, recieve combat training from U.S. troops at Combat Outpost Lakokhel in Kandahar Province. July 19, 2010.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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After a 3 hour shift guarding Combat Outpost Lakokehel, an Afghan soldier listens to music on his radio. July 18, 2010.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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After recieving several rounds of AK-47 fire in a guard tower, Afghan National Army first sergeant Noor Akim, at Combat Outpost Lakokhel, fires 40mm grenades in the general direction of the attackers. Akim then picked up an American soldier's machine gun and sprayed hundreds of rounds into the surrounding grape fields, which were being harvested by local laborers. July 20, 2010.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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Afghan National Army soldiers listen to music on a cellphone at Combat Outpost Lakokhel in Kandahar Province. July 19, 2010.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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As a dust storm blows in from the south, Afghan troops at FOB Ramrod rehearse for an upcoming mission. Oct. 22, 2010.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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A heavy weapons squad of Afghan soldiers, fresh from basic training, sling their machine guns at Camp Hero. July 25, 2010.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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A squad leader with the Afghan National Army patrols through grape rows with his U.S. counterparts in western Zhari. July 21, 2010.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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Afghan soldiers in Maiwand District discuss battle plans at FOB Ramrod. Oct. 22, 2010.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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U.S. troops mentor their Afghan counterparts at FOB Ramrod before a joint air assault mission. Oct. 22, 2010.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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Afghan troops are packed into Chinook helicopters like sardines for the 30-minute flight to Talukan during an air assault operation. Oct. 26, 2010.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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Afghan National Army soldiers pull guard duty alongside U.S. troops at Combat Outpost Lakokhel in Kandahar Province. July 18, 2010. Lakokhel's four guard tower come under harassing fire regularly, and the Afghan soldiers are known for their disproportionate response.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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Afghan soldiers fresh from basic training stand in formation at Camp Hero in Kandahar City. July 25, 2010.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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An Afghan soldier plays dead during a training demonstration at Camp Hero. July 25, 2010.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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