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Afghanistan: A PHOTOGRAPHER returns 10 years later

Last updated on: October 7, 2011 18:44 IST

Afghanistan: A PHOTOGRAPHER returns 10 years later

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They say there is no place to hide for a photojournalist in Afghanistan. Though seen as a chance of a lifetime, few dare venture in the war-torn country. One such journalist who saw war first hand is Reuters' Eric De Castro, who was a part of a three-member team that went to Afghanistan, following the 9/11 attacks.

Then, they were covering the pursuit of now-slain Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, who was believed to be holed up in the Tora Bora mountains.

Ten years later, Castro was back in Afghanistan, this as an embedded photojournalist with the United States military. In his blog, Castro describes his experiences with security, patrolling for hidden arms caches, coming under fire and looking for the Taliban.

Let's take a look at some of the awesome pictures Castro has taken...


Image: Anti-Taliban Afghan fighters watch several explosions from US bombings in the Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan in this picture taken on December 16, 2001. (inset) Eric De Castro.

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He describes, "As we passed the Afghan border on the road to Jalalabad following a long journey from Islamabad, Pakistan, I remember the precautions our security adviser told us: If ever we are stopped by armed men along the way, stay calm and just hand over our US dollars.

"Weeks earlier, two Reuters colleagues (a TV cameraman and a photographer) and two other European journalists traveling with a convoy of media vehicles were killed by bandits on the same road," he writes.


Image: Anti-Taliban Afghan fighters carrying rocket-propelled grenade walk beside a T55 Soviet tank in the Tora Bora mountains in this picture taken on December 13, 2001 in Afghanistan.

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Lucas writes, "During patrols, local residents would smile at and greet the soldiers. Children swarmed them asking for pens, candies and one dollar bills.


Image: A US soldier uses a stick to play swords with a boy during a patrol in Nangharhar

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"On one patrol, young Afghan teenage boys crowded around a female soldier until the men in her platoon shooed them away."


Image: Afghan boys greet a US female soldier from Task Force Bronco 3rd Platoon 307th MP Company while patrolling in a village in Shinwar district in Nangarhar, in this picture taken on September 10, 2011.

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He says, "The second week of my embed with a unit from "The Wolfhounds" in Bari Alai, was an entirely different picture. While the soldiers from Task force Bronco were warmly received by the locals, the soldiers in Bari Alai could not get near the villages.

"Their camp was situated on a mountain ridge in Kunar province overlooking at least five villages and the eastern road to Pakistan. In 2009, the camp was overran by about 100 members of the Taliban, who killed eight coalition troops, including three U.S. soldiers, and captured 11 Afghan soldiers," he adds.


Image: US soldiers from Task Force 'No Fear' 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, 2-27 Infantry fire a 60mm mortar towards the Taliban position during an early morning firefight in Ghaziabad district at outpost Bari Ari in Kunar, Afghanistan in this picture taken on September 13, 2011

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Describing his experience, he writes, "For five days, I experienced Spartan living with the soldiers in Bari Alai, where the only things you would consider luxuries were the internet connection and a flat screen television. While I was there, the base was attacked by Taliban every other day. I witnessed how the US soldiers engaged their enemy."

A US soldier watches from a bunker as smoke rises after a military jet fighter dropped a bomb on the Taliban position in Ghaziabad district at outpost Bari Ari in Kunar, Afghanistan in this picture taken on September 15, 2011.


Image: Smoke rises after a US military fighter jet dropped bombs at Taliban positions, as seen from a bunker of the US soldiers from Task Force

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Continuing with the account, he says, "A more intense gun battle ensued on the third day. I was awakened by early morning gunfire, and again grabbing my cameras I followed the soldiers as they ran to their battle positions."

"This time, they used more force; Tow missile launchers, mortars, jet fighters and assault helicopters. I saw bullets fired by the Taliban barely miss the head of a US Army sniper. The battle lasted almost two hours and then things were back to normal at the camp," he says.


Image: Smoke rises after a US military fighter jet dropped bombs at Taliban positions, as seen from a bunker of the US soldiers from Task Force

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He recalls, "On the days that were quiet, I photographed soldiers going about their daily life at the camp. The commanding officer told him it was normal for his unit to be attacked by the Taliban on an almost-daily basis.

"He pointed out a white flag in one of the villages, indicating the presence of Taliban in the area, as he and three other soldiers side by side scanned the villages with their binoculars," he writes.

Summing up his experience, he writes, "When I looked at the villages through my long lens, I couldn't help but recall the same mud houses in similar looking villages in the Tora Bora mountains 10 years ago. Nothing has changed and it is hard to imagine progress and peace taking place even in another 10 years from now.


Image: Afghan villagers work on a field as seen from a bunker

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