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Afghanistan: February 2012

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Earlier this month, as U.S. and NATO forces lay the groundwork for an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan, a serious misstep threatened to disrupt their plans. On February 21, reports surfaced that NATO personnel at Bagram Air Base had burned a number of Korans, which were discovered and saved by locals working at the base. Despite an apology from the Obama administration, and claims by NATO authorities that the burnings had happened inadvertently, violent anti-American demonstrations erupted in several places. Dozens were killed, including four American troops. Two of the Americans were allegedly killed by an Afghan colleague, another in an increasing number of insider attacks. According to the Pentagon, around 70 NATO members have been killed in 42 insider attacks from May 2007 through January 2012. Gathered here are images of the people and places involved in this conflict over the past month, as part of an ongoing monthly series on Afghanistan. [40 photos]

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A CH-47 Chinook helicopter scatters snow as it lands at a remote landing zone in Shah Joy district, Zabul province, Afghanistan, on February 8, 2012. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jon Rasmussen)
A CH-47 Chinook helicopter scatters snow as it lands at a remote landing zone in Shah Joy district, Zabul province, Afghanistan, on February 8, 2012. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jon Rasmussen)
An Afghan boy watches Afghan Border Police Pvt. Ghul Faruq, a medic with 2nd Tolai, 2nd Kandak, Helmand ABP, provide security as fellow ABP search a compound during a partnered security patrol with U.S. Marines from Combined Anti-Armor Team 2, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, on January 30, 2012. (USMC/Cpl. Reece Lodder) #
Afghans warm their hands over a fire in Kabul, on February 9, 2012. National Weather Center meteorologist Abdul Qadir Qadir said temperatures in Kabul dipped as low as -16C (3F), with the lowest previous on record at -17C (1F) set about 15 years ago. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq) #
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Guillermo Floresmartines wades through a canal during a patrol around the villages of Sre Kala and Paygel in Helmand province, Afghanistan, on February 16, 2012. U.S. Marines and sailors conducted clearing and disrupting operations around the villages during Operation Highland Thunder. (USMC/Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez) #
A local elder asks Garmsir District Governor Mohammad Fahim a question about development projects during a shura on February 23, 2012. Fahim asked the elders for help in growing the Afghan Local Police program, and urged them to cease illicit poppy growth in their villages. In response to their requests for school, clinic and road construction, Fahim implored the elders to support Afghan-led security efforts. (USMC/Cpl. Reece Lodder) #
An Afghan boy selling packed peas waits for customers on a cold, snow-covered street during a snowstorm in Kabul, on February 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Ahmad Nazar) #
Master Sgt. Rogelio Martinez, 76th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron flight engineer, inspects a camera on the front of a HC-130P King, a search and rescue version of the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. Martinez is responsible for preflight, in-flight and post-flight checks of the aircraft. (USAF/Tech. Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio) #
Internally displaced Afghans from Helmand province inside a mud shelter for the displaced at the Charhi Qambar refugee camp on the outskirts of Kabul, on February 6, 2012. Fleeing NATO bombardment and Taliban intimidation, thousands of Afghans in refugee camps in the capital Kabul face a new enemy: an unusually bitter winter that is killing their children. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) #
Afghan demonstrators show copies of Korans allegedly set alight by US soldiers, during a protest against Koran desecration at the gate of Bagram Air Base, on February 21, 2012. The copies of the burnt Korans and Islamic religious texts were obtained by Afghan workers contracted to work inside Bagram air base, and presented to demonstrators gathered outside the military installation. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) #
Afghan police try to restrain demonstrators during an anti-US protest in Baghlan province, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, on February 24, 2012. Thousands of Afghans staged new demonstrations Friday over the burning of Qurans at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Jawed Basharat) #
An Afghan boy who works at a bakery watches a protest outside his a window in Kabul, on February 24, 2012. Twelve people were killed on Friday in the bloodiest day yet in protests that have raged across Afghanistan over the desecration of copies of the Muslim holy book at a NATO military base with riot police and soldiers on high alert braced for more violence. (Reuters/Ahmad Masood) #
An Afghan protester gestures towards a US soldier in front of the US base of Bagram during an anti-US demonstration in Bagram north of Kabul, on February 21, 2012. More than 2,000 angry Afghans, some firing guns in the air, protested on Tuesday against the improper disposal and burning of Korans and other Islamic religious materials at an American air base. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq) #
Afghan policemen form lines outside an American military base during an anti-U.S. demonstration in Mehterlam, Laghman province, on February 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul) #
Afghan protesters throw rocks towards a water cannon near a U.S. military base in Kabul, on February 22, 2012. (Reuters/Ahmad Masood) #
An Afghan boy watches as a young man aims an airgun at US soldiers (unseen) at the gate of Bagram airbase during a protest against Koran desecration on February 21, 2012. Afghan protestors firing slingshots and petrol bombs besieged one of the largest US-run military bases in Afghanistan, furious over reports that NATO had set fire to copies of the Koran. Guards at Bagram airbase responded by firing rubber bullets from a watchtower. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) #
Afghan anti-riot policemen watch as smoke billows from a fuel tank supplying NATO troops, after it was set on fire by protesters during a demonstration in Jalalabad province, on February 22, 2012. (Reuters/Parwiz) #
Afghan policemen run for cover during clashes with protesters in Kabul February 24, 2012. Two protesters were shot dead in separate rallies in Kabul on Friday over the burnings of the Koran at a NATO base, police told Reuters at the scene. (Reuters/Ahmad Masood) #
An Afghan policeman runs after confiscating a U.S. flag from protesters in Kabul February 23, 2012. The Taliban urged Afghans to target foreign military bases and kill Westerners in retaliation for burnings of copies of the Koran at NATO's main base in the country as a third day of violent protests began. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani) #
Afghan protesters move an apparently dead man during clashes in Kabul, on February 24, 2012. Nine more people were killed on Friday in protests in Afghanistan over the burning of copies of the Koran at a NATO base, officials said. (Reuters/Ahmad Masood) #
An Afghan police officer fires into the air to disperse protestors during an anti-U.S. demonstration in Kabul, Afghanistan, on February 23, 2012. The Koran burnings have roiled Afghans and set off riots in an illustration of the intensity of the anger at what they perceive as foreign forces flouting their laws and insulting their culture. The U.S. has apologized for the burnings, which took place at a military base near Kabul, and said it was a mistake. (AP Photo) #
A parachute bundle with the Joint Precision Air Drop system is dropped from a C-130J Hercules to a remote Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan. The JPAD system uses a GPS navigation system to guide parachute bundles to precise drop zones, minimizing collateral damage, troops' ground travel, and the vulnerability of the aircraft. (USAF/SrA Tyler Placie) #
A displaced Afghan boy from Helmand province stands in a refugee camp in Kabul, on February 7, 2012. A new report by Amnesty International says that every day hundreds of Afghans join the ranks of half a million displaced by fighting and natural disaster. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq, File) #
A child stands with his father as they wait to receive blankets and winter jackets from Welthungerhilfe, a German NGO, during a snow fall at a camp for internally displaced Afghans in Kabul, on Feb, 20. 2012. More than 40 people, most of them children, have frozen to death in what has been Afghanistan's coldest winter in years, an Afghan health official said Monday. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq) #
An Afghan refugee child cries as she and her brother wait for non-food items donated by the United Nations Refugee Agency through a winter assistance program during a snowstorm at a refugee camp in Kabul, on February 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq) #
A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle from the 335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron soars past mountains leaving a heat contrail on February 13 near Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. (USAF/Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht) #
U.S. Army Sgt. Aaron Sweeny, from San Diego, California, and Staff Sgt. Robert Novak, from Temple, Texas, both with 3rd Platoon, Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Spartan, watch explosions from a mountaintop near Forward Operating Base Salerno during a call-for-fire exercise on February 3, 2012. (US Army/Spc. Ken Scar) #
U.S. Army Spc. Patrick Dodson, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Special Troop Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, provides flight-line guard security, on February 20, 2012, at Forward Operating Base Fenty, in the Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. (US Army/Sgt. Trey Harvey) #
Afghan National Army commandos patrol toward their objective during an operation to disrupt a Taliban weapons storage and IED manufacturing network in Jaghatu district, Wardak province, on February 24. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Sebastian McCormack) #
An 8th Commando Kandak soldier fires a rocket-propelled grenade during a live-fire exercise in Tarin Kowt district, Uruzgan province, on February 2, 2012. (U.S. Navy/Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Dillon) #
A Taliban fighter, after he joined Afghan government forces during a ceremony in Herat province on February 18, 2012. Twenty fighters left the Taliban to join government forces in western Afghanistan. (Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan boy throws a cricket ball on a frozen lake in Kabul, on February 2, 2012. (Reuters/Mohammad Ismail) #
In this picture taken on January 18, 2012, an Afghan man injects heroin near the Kabul River. The number of drug users in Afghanistan has increased dramatically, but corruption within the state has prevented the distribution of methadone for treatments, said the Afghan minister of health. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan man smokes a cigarette after using drugs near the Kabul River in Kabul, on January 18, 2012. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan firefighter cleans bloodstains from the scene of a bomb blast in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province south of Kabul, Afghanistan, on February 9, 2012. Two Afghan policemen were killed and one more was wounded by the blast, police officials said. (AP Photo/Abdul Khaleq) #
A cache of unexploded ordnance is detonated by coalition special operations forces during a presence patrol in Pul-e Khumri district, Baghlan province, on February 8, 2012. Afghan commandos and coalition special operations forces detonated more than 450 pounds of unexploded ordnance. (U.S. Army/Spc. Robin Davis) #
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brandon Mann uses his automatic rifle's scope to scan the area while providing security with his military working dog, Ty, around the villages of Sre Kala and Paygel in Helmand province, on February 17, 2012. Mann, a military working dog handler, and Ty, an IED detection dog, are assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. (USMC/Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez) #
Gunnar Farrar, 3, hugs his dad Sgt. Denton Farrar, as Oklahoma National Guardsmen are greeted by family and friends on their return from Afghanistan on Friday, February 17, 2012, in Norman, Oklahoma. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Steve Sisney) #
Fort Riley-based Army Sgt. Jamie Jarboe waves to the people gathered on February 17, 2012, at Philip Billard Muncipal Airport in Topeka, Kansas, to welcome him home. Jarbo was shot by a sniper in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/The Topeka Capital Journal, Anthony S. Bush) #
Andrew and Laura Johnson turn to say a few words of gratitude to soldiers at the conclusion of a memorial service for their son, 1st Lt. David A. Johnson, as they stand in front of a ceremonial helmet, rifle and boots on February 15, 2012, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma, Washington. Johnson, 24, of Horicon, Wisconsin, died on January 25 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered from an IED detonation while he was on patrol. Johnson was assigned to the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, which had deployed to Afghanistan in December, 2011. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) #
Afghan Border Police with 4th Tolai, 2nd Kandak, Helmand ABP, and U.S. Marines with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, board a CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter near Combat Outpost Torbert before the start of Operation Shahem Tofan (Eagle Storm), on February 10, 2012. After arriving in the Registan Desert on helicopters and an armored convoy, ABP and the Weapons Marines scoured dusty highways for smugglers and insurgents moving across the eastern desert into Helmand province. (USMC/Cpl. Reece Lodder) #

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