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Afghanistan in Panorama, March 2011

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Every month, I dedicate a post to the continuing conflict in Afghanistan. In this installment, I'm happy to share a distinctive set of panoramic images by photographer Louie Palu. These were tricky to get. "With the growing threat of targeted attacks against journalists and their Afghan fixers [guides and translators] in many of the areas I wanted to visit, using a camera openly was too dangerous -- so I had to come up with an invisible way of taking photos," Palu explains. That meant being able to hide his equipment on his body: "I began using a super-wide panoramic camera, which allowed me to photograph scenes with the camera wrapped in a scarf or hidden under my arm. The lens has a small motor in it that starts at one side and revolves 120 degrees to capture a cinematic view of what I was seeing. The resulting pictures, shot on black-and-white film, are sometimes-distorted, long-and-narrow panoramas, but they also capture the environment in an unguarded and authentic way." In 2010, Palu was awarded a grant from the Alexia Foundation for his project on Kandahar. These photographs were taken during 2009-10 in Kandahar's Zhari, Panjwaii, Spin Boldak, and Maiwand Districts, Kandahar City, Nimruz and Farah Provinces. (For wider screens, be sure to click the "1280px" option at right.) [20 panoramas]

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A US Marine from the 2nd MEB of the 2/3 Marines hands his interpreter (aka a linguist) a hand gun for his own self-defense during a patrol after sporadic fighting in the village of Gund located in a hostile region between the Black Pass, Buji Bast Pass (aka Bhuji Bast) and "Fighting Mountain" aka "Kohe Tengay" which in Pashto means "Three Kings" in Golestan, Farah Province, on Sep 10, 2009, where US Marines were deadlocked in a bitter counterinsurgency campaign and conflict with insurgents using mainly Improvised Explosive Devices (IED's). (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press)
A US Marine from the 2nd MEB of the 2/3 Marines hands his interpreter (aka a linguist) a hand gun for his own self-defense during a patrol after sporadic fighting in the village of Gund located in a hostile region between the Black Pass, Buji Bast Pass (aka Bhuji Bast) and "Fighting Mountain" aka "Kohe Tengay" which in Pashto means "Three Kings" in Golestan, Farah Province, on Sep 10, 2009, where US Marines were deadlocked in a bitter counterinsurgency campaign and conflict with insurgents using mainly Improvised Explosive Devices (IED's). (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press)
A Chinook helicopter MEDEVACS injured US Marines after their vehicle hit a roadside bomb by the Buji Bast Pass (aka Bhuji Bast) in Golestan, Farah Province on September 10, 2009. (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press/The Alexia Foundation) #
Afghan children in Maiwand District, in Kandahar Afghanistan are seen on the narrow pathways in their village between compounds they live in, which are all made of mud. The majority of all homes in Afghanistan are made of mud, particularly in the rural regions. (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press/The Alexia Foundation) #
A US Marine from the 2nd MEB of the 2/3 Marines searches for insurgents on "Fighting Mountain" aka "Kohe Tengay" which in Pashto means "Three Kings" after his unit was ambushed by insurgents near the Buji Bast Pass (aka Bhuji Bast in Golestan, Farah Province on September 11, 2009. (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press) #
A US Air Force Reaper - an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) - sits in a hanger on an air base in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan on September 17, 2009. The Reaper is a hunter-killer UAV and is a larger and newer aircraft than its predecessor known as a Predator. These aircraft are frequently used to cover Canadian Operations in Kandahar. (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press) #
Villagers and one of their elders, seen in the Sperwan area of Panjwaii District as Afghan Police (ANP) brought in from Maywand District patrol their village since the local police were too abusive and corrupt to deploy in the area during this clearing operation lead by US and Canadian Forces in Kandahar, Afghanistan. (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press/The Alexia Foundation) #
A Canadian soldier walks up a narrow path between mud walls on what is known as "Route Nightmare" in a village in Panjwaii District, Kandahar, Afghanistan. The mud walls and unpaved paths and roads that exist due to lack of development and reconstruction in almost all of the impoverished rural areas of Kandahar allow for the easy planting of land mines and roadside bombs by insurgents. (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press/The Alexia Foundation) #
A corroded Russian T-62 series tank in a Russian military vehicle graveyard located in the Afghan Army (ANA) 2 Corp area in Kandahar City, Afghanistan. The Afghan landscape is littered with the remains of Russian military vehicles after the decade-long war with the Soviets in the 1980's ended, resulting in them withdrawing in defeat - fueling the legend that Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires. (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press/The Alexia Foundation) #
An Afghan soldier guards a stretch of Highway 1 between Maywand District and Zhari District, Afghanistan after an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was discovered. A civilian drives a tractor in the background around the roadblock. (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press/The Alexia Foundation) #
Exhausted Canadian infantry from the Vandoos (R22R) Bravo Company sleep in a civilian compound occupied during the second of three days of fighting before continuing an operation to clear the area of insurgents in the Siah Choy area of Zhari District in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. Zhari District (aka Zharey) located west of Kandahar City has long been an insurgent stronghold and the birthplace of the Taliban movement lead by Mullah Mohammad Omar in the 1990s. Cpl. Christian Bobbitt (foreground 2nd from left) age 23 and Sapper Matthieu Allard (rear far right) age 21 were killed by an IED about a month after this operation. (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press/The Alexia Foundation) #
An Afghan man detained as a suspected insurgent by Afghan and Canadian troops is lead away with his hands bound in the village of Salavat in the insurgent stronghold of Panjwaii District in Kandahar, Afghanistan. (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press/The Alexia Foundation) #
US Marines from the 2nd MEB of the 2/3 Marines patrol the mountains of the Black Pass after fighting the previous night on September 09, 2009. (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press) #
Young boys memorize the Qur'an (Koran) and rock their heads back and forth as they recite passages in Arabic in a Madrasah (Madrassa), which means school in Arabic. (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press/The Alexia Foundation) #
Afghan men buying and selling fruit watch a US-led patrol drive through the bazaar in the city of Wesh, located in Spin Boldak, Kandahar, Afghanistan. Spin Boldak is the main border crossing in Kandahar to Pakistan. (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press/The Alexia Foundation) #
Canadian Soldiers sit in the heat, taking cover behind a wall as engineers destroy multiple IED's set by insurgents, targeting them during a multiple day operation aimed at attempting to clear the village of Chalgower in Panjwaii District, Kandahar, Afghanistan. Following this operation a brutal insurgency took hold in Chalgower and in the surrounding villages resulting in injury and death to numerous civilians, insurgents and soldiers without completely expelling the insurgents influence in the area. (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press/The Alexia Foundation) #
Black smoke billows from the charred remains from a suicide attack on a civilian convoy on Highway 1 outside the US Marine Forward Operating base Delaram, a strategic and economic crossroads in southeastern Afghanistan located in Nimroz Province. The suicide attack was made using a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) killing three Afghans and injuring several others. (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press/The Alexia Foundation) #
The body of a young Afghan man is seen in a Canadian front-line hospital after he was fatally shot during a battle between the Afghan Army and Taliban insurgents in Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan on July 23, 2009. The medics at this front-line army hospital worked desperately to save and revive him, but the wounds were too severe for him survive. (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press) #
Canadian artillery during a fire mission at a Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Zhari (AKA Zharey) District in Kandahar, Afghanistan on July 10, 2009. Artillery strikes are frequently called in from other FOB's on the front lines and units on patrol when in contact with insurgents. (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press) #
Afghan children swim, bathe and play in a canal in the heart of Kandahar City, Afghanistan. Most residents of Kandahar have no running water and rely on canals and wells for their water needs. Many residents in Kandahar have very little access to basic utilities as the infrastructure of the city has collapsed under the weight of years of conflict and poverty. (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press/The Alexia Foundation) #
Canadian soldiers question young fighting-age males and search for improvised explosive devices in the volatile village of Chalghowr located in Panjwaii District, an insurgent haven southwest of Kandahar City, Afghanistan. The US-led NATO troops have a difficult time trying to identify insurgents from civilians as the Taliban operate amongst the population. (© Louie Palu/ZUMA Press/The Alexia Foundation) #

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