Clear, Hold, Build. The People are the Prize. Focus on the Population, their Needs, and Security. Most of the Important Decisions are Not Made By Generals. The More Force Used, the Less Effective It Is. The Best Weapons in a COIN Fight Do Not Shoot.
These are the ideas that were supposed to win the war. Boiled down to bullet points, ready for slide shows, the tenets of COIN doctrine sounded sensible enough. But the war wasn’t fought in Power Point. The war was won or lost every day in the dusty lanes and spare villages of southern and eastern Afghanistan. In the thousands of small interactions, encounters, arguments, village raids, IED blasts, and tea summits between the US military and the Afghan people.
These photographs illuminate the delicate dance between these groups, and what was at stake for both of them. Together they attempt to answer hard questions about our 13 years of occupation in Afghanistan. What did this have to do with our War on Terror? What kind of security and development would stabilize Afghanistan? How much can we expect from these young men and women? What do we mean by a just war? What does it matter at a granular level, the violence converting a pastoral homeland for one group into a battlefield for the other?
Here, Lt. Stuhler has a heart to heart with Haji Najibullah.
A search in order to pass a US position, the Onkhai Valley.
A boy watches Spc. Don Ezra Plemmons buy supplies, Sayedabad.
Hills and valleys, Chamkani, Paktia.
After an attack on the COP, Arghandab district, Kandahar.
An elderly man argues with Sgt. Timothy Stokes during a patrol in Marjah.
An evening swim in one of the US built canals, Marjah.
A pair of brothers cry as US soldiers take their father away for interrogation.
Biometric screening, Musa Khel district, Khost.
Cpt. Zepeda makes things clear for Haji Bozgul during a shura at COP Turbett.
Able Co. of the 1-506 Infantry Battalion get haircuts at COP Chamkani in Paktia.
Deployment reading rests on a wubby in the Arghandab valley.
Soldiers at rest in the Arghandab Valley.
Night falls on JSS Commanche, Tangi Valley, Wardak Province.
Illum rounds light up the hills along the Khost- Gardez Pass, Paktia province.
An Afghan Policeman, asleep outside of Kandahar City.
MRAP and cows, Sabari.
A letter from Marine Lnc. Cpl. Kaleb Lacy's fiance, Chor-Cherey.
Sgt. Stokes conducts a pre-mission brief before a patrol, COP Turbett.
A dog lunges at a soldier during a house search in Lachikhel, Tangi Valley.
Sgt. Thomas Burke conducts a search during an air assault in the Tangi Valley.
An Afghan Army soldier attacks a civilian after a firefight, Marjah.
Pfc. Tyler Schell on patrol at dusk, Tangi Valley.
Lnc. Cpl. Mullins fires a LAW rocket at insurgents during a fight in Marjah.
ANA soldiers assault Mulik, who they suspect of insurgent ties in Sabari district, Khost province.
Soldiers with Alpha Co. 1-502nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division carry a dog they shot in Chapahar, Nangarhar Province
Women and children gather as Marines search their compound, Helmand.
2-1 Kandak of the Afghan 203 Corps ride back to camp in Musa Khel, Khost province.
Heading out to man an all night checkpoint, COP Babur.
A pull string, attached to a live IED left after a firefight, Chor-Cherey, Marjah.
Cpl. Eric Hopp rushes to save Cpl. Manuel Jimenez after he is hit with an IED on patrol in Marjah.
Cpl. Jimenez is carried across the canal. He lost his left arm in the blast.
Lt. Matthew Stuhler sits up with Afghan soldiers after they lose seven of their own, Marjah.
Soldiers salute at the ramp ceremony for Sgt. Patrick K. Durham and Spc. Andrew J. Castro killed in Babur. Kandahar Air Field.
Exhaustion after a rocket attack, COP Wilderness, Paktia.
Officers arrive for a fallen soldier ceremony, Chamkani, Paktia.