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Afghanistan: May 2013

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Taliban insurgents have stepped up suicide attacks and bombings this month in what they are calling a "Spring Offensive", striking targets all over Afghanistan. Insider attacks on NATO and Afghan National Army forces have declined, possibly due to new "guardian angel" tactics, where soldiers are designated to provide security during training and oversight missions. I'd also like to take a moment to direct your attention to Ben Anderson's Afghanistan documentary on VICE.com, What Winning Looks Like. If you're at all interested in what the situation is like in Afghanistan right now, this documentary is well worth the time, showing the good, bad, and ugly sides of the war as we approach the 2014 withdrawal deadline. The photos below are show scenes from this conflict over the past month, part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan. [38 photos]

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An Afghan National Army soldier assigned to the Mobile Strike Force Kandak fires an RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launcher during a live-fire exercise supervised by the Marines with the Mobile Strike Force Advisor Team on Camp Shorabak, Helmand province, Afghanistan, on May 20, 2013. (USMC/Staff Sgt. Ezekiel R. Kitandwe)
An Afghan National Army soldier assigned to the Mobile Strike Force Kandak fires an RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launcher during a live-fire exercise supervised by the Marines with the Mobile Strike Force Advisor Team on Camp Shorabak, Helmand province, Afghanistan, on May 20, 2013. (USMC/Staff Sgt. Ezekiel R. Kitandwe)
A young Afghan man jumps from a diving board into a swimming pool on a hill overlooking Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 17, 2013. The swimming pool build by the Soviets more then 30 years ago has rarely been used caught instead in the middle of decades of war. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #
Afghan air force 2nd Lt. Niloofar Rhmani walks the flight line at Shindand Air Base, Afghanistan, prior to her graduation from undergraduate pilot training, on May 13, 2013. Rhmani made history on May 14, when she became the first female to successfully complete undergraduate pilot training and earn the status of pilot in more than 30 years. She will continue her service as she joins the Kabul Air Wing as a Cessna 208 pilot. (USAF/Senior Airman Scott Saldukas) #
An Afghan family walks at the Hazrat-e Ali shrine in Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, on May 9, 2013. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani) #
Marine Sgt. Ross Gundlach, of Madison, Wisconsin, gets a kiss from Casey, a four-year-old yellow labrador that he worked with while deployed in Afghanistan, as the two are reunited during a surprise ceremony, on May 17, 2013, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. Gundlach thought he was traveling to the Iowa Capitol to tell state officials why he should take ownership of the dog, which has been working for the state fire marshal's office. Gundlach didn't realize officials already had made arrangements to get another dog for explosives detection. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) #
A U.S. soldier arrives on the scene where a suicide car bomber attacked a NATO convoy in Kabul, on May 16, 2013. A Muslim militant group, Hizb-e-Islami, claimed responsibility for the early morning attack, killing many in the explosion and wounding tens, police and hospital officials said. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #
NATO soldiers with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) arrive at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul May 16, 2013. (Reuters/Mohammad Ismail) #
An Afghan woman harvests wheat on the outskirts of Kabul, on May 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Ahmad Jamshid) #
A trailer transports armored vehicles, used by NATO forces during the Afghan war, along a road after their arrival at Port Mohammad Bin Qasim, some 40 km (25 miles) from Karachi, on May 25, 2013. After more than ten year NATO and U.S. have started withdrawal of their equipments from Afghanistan, local media reported. (Reuters/Athar Hussain) #
Corpsmen with Combat Logistics Regiment 2, II Marine Logistics Group provide medical care to an Afghan Uniformed Police officer at Combat Outpost Musa Qa'la, on May 18, 2013. The AUP were patrolling through Musa Qa'la District when a roadside IED detonated. The police officer sustained minor injuries to his head and face, caused by shrapnel from the explosion. (USMC/Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough) #
Sophia Phillips plugs her ears as the firing party fires three rifle volleys for her father, US Army Staff Sergeant Francis G. Phillips IV, as members of the US Army honor guard perform a full military honors burial service at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on May 20, 2013. Phillips, from Meridian, New York was killed in combat in the Maiwand district of Afghanistan when the vehicle he was riding in was struck by an improvised explosive device. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Mobile Strike Force Vehicle assigned to the Afghan National Army Mobile Strike Force Kandak, navigates through a series of obstacles at a rough terrain driving course on Camp Bastion, Helmand province, on May 13, 2013. (USMC/ Staff Sgt. Ezekiel R. Kitandwe) #
Newly graduated Afghan National Army soldiers attend their graduation ceremony at the Kabul Military Training Center in Kabul, on May 23, 2013. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani) #
Zardana, 11, talks in Kandahar, Afghanistan on April 22, 2013 about a pre-dawn incident on March 11, 2012, when she says a U.S. soldier burst into her family's home. Zardana said her visiting cousin saw the soldier chasing them and ran to help, but he was shot and killed. "We couldn't stop. We just wanted somewhere to hide. I was holding on to my grandmother and we ran to our neighbors." Family members explained that Zardana was also shot in the head. She spent about two months recovering at the Kandahar Air Base hospital and three more at a naval hospital in San Diego receiving rehabilitation therapy, accompanied by her father, Samiullah. U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales of Lake Tapps, Washington, is accused of the killings. Bales is due to give the specific details of the massacre in open court this week, as he pleads guilty to avoid the death penalty. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #
A team of wrecker operators with Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, hook a seven-ton truck chassis during vehicle recovery training at Twentynine Palms, California, May 25, 2013. The Marines pulled the chassis from a sandy ravine as part of a training exercise meant to prepare them for possible scenarios they may encounter during their upcoming deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (USMC/Cpl. Paul Peterson) #
An arrested Taliban fighter is displayed to the media in Panjwai district of Kandahar province, on May 28, 2013. (Jangir/AFP/Getty Images) #
U.S. Army Sgt. Leroy Petry, who lost his right hand in 2008 while serving in Afghanistan, holds a baseball prior to delivering it to the mound for a Memorial Day baseball game between the San Diego Padres and the Seattle Mariners, on May 27, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) #
Children run away after an explosion in Kabul, on May 24, 2013. Several large explosions rocked a busy area in the center of the Afghan capital, with Reuters witnesses describing shooting in the area. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani) #
An Afghan policeman fires his weapon during a gun battle following a suicide attack in Kabul, on May 24, 2013. A suicide bomber struck in the heart of the Afghan capital, sending a plume of smoke billowing over Kabul. (AP Photo/Ahmad Jamshid) #
A wounded Afghan policeman is carried away from the site of an explosion in Kabul, on May 24, 2013. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani) #
In this photograph taken on May 7, 2013, Afghan miner Morad Ali, 30, stands where he was searching for gold in a mountainside near the village of Qara Zaghan in Baghlan province. Ali is one of generations of local men who have used chisels and pickaxes to extract small amounts of gold from the forbidding peaks above the village of Qara Zaghan on the edge of the Hindu Kush mountains. Now a dirt track has been carved up to the spot, and professional surveying is underway as part of efforts to assess how Afghanistan's vast mineral wealth could be exploited as the country seeks a more stable and prosperous future. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) #
A foreign youth pops an ollie on her skateboard as Afghan youths gather for The Sound Central Festival at the French Cultural Center in Kabul, on May 2, 2013. The Sound Central Festival, now on its second year, is the only event of its kind that takes places in Afghanistan, where music was banned by the Taliban until the end of 2001. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images) #
Honor guards stand next to the coffins of Georgian servicemen who were recently killed in Afghanistan, in Tbilisi, Georgia, on May 16, 2013. Three Georgian soldiers serving with the NATO-led force in Afghanistan were killed in an insurgent attack on a base in Helmand province. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov) #
Moha Zakir, a trainee at the Afghan National Army commando school at Camp Moorehead. (USAF/Staff Sgt. Dustin Payne) #
U.S. Army Spc. Robert Purvis, a generator mechanic with Headquarters Support Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, skypes with his wife Shandel Purvis, on May 13, 2013, from Forward Operating Base Shank, Afghanistan, as they wait for the birth of their first son at Winn Army Community Hospital, Fort Stewart, Georgia. (US Army/Staff Sgt. Elvis Umanzor) #
An Afghan National Army commando with 3rd Company, 1st Special Operations Kandak, pulls security on a patrol through a poppy field during a clearing operation in Khugyani district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, on May 9, 2013. (US Army/Staff Sgt. Kaily Brown) #
Chelsay Kurtz weeps with her daughter Chsaige, 3, while sitting by the name of her husband's friend, Cpl. Taylor Baune, who was killed in Afghanistan, during a Memorial Day ceremony at the Mount Soledad Veteran's Memorial in La Jolla, California, on May 27, 2013. The ceremony honored Glen A. Doherty and Tyrone Woods, who were Navy Seals and were killed during the attacks on the U.S. Diplomatic Compound in Benghazi on September 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Sandy Huffaker) #
Afghan school children walk home after classes at an open-air classroom on the outskirts of Mihtarlam in Laghman province on May 25, 2013. (Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images) #
An artist paints graffiti on a wall during the Sound Central music festival in Kabul, on May 1, 2013. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani) #
Afghan drug addict, Abdul Rahman, 44, exhales after smoking opium as his children watch him at his home in Laghman province, on May 21, 2013. The number of Afghan heroin addicts has tripled to 150,000, according to the United Nations, with 230,000 people using opium in 2012. (Waseem Nikzad/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan boy flies his kite on a hill overlooking Kabul, on May 13, 2013. Banned during the Taliban regime, kite flying is once again the main recreational escape for Afghan boys and some men. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #
An Afghan National Army soldier returns from a patrol through local villages of Hesarak, Nangarhar province, on May 17, 2013. (U.S. Army/Spc. Vang Seng Thao) #
Afghans look at shoes that remain at the scene after a vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in the Alingar district of Laghman province, east of Kabul, on June 03, 2013. A statement from the provincial government said a group of four women and two children had gone with a male driver into the hills to collect firewood. On their way back, their vehicle hit the mine and all inside were killed. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul) #
A girl stands next to soldiers in Eindhoven, on May 6, 2013. Over 80 Dutch soldiers left for Afghanistan from the Eindhoven Airport to replace the current F-16 detachment. (Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/AFP/Getty Images) #
Soldiers from the Afghan National Army stand at the entrance of an old palace at ANA Forward Operating Base Muqor in Ghazni province, on May 28, 2013. (Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images) #
Afghan security forces stand over the dead bodies of insurgents after a suicide attack in Bazarak district, Panjshir province, on May 29, 2013. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan defense serviceman inspects the bloodied walls and severed limbs and head of an insurgent lying amid debris following a suicide attack in Bazarak district, Panjshir province, on May 29, 2013. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan firefighter works inside the charred interior of the provincial governor's office following a suicide attack in Bazarak district, on May 29, 2013. Afghan security forces killed six suicide bombers who attacked the Panjshir provincial governor's office early on May 29, officials said, in an assault on one the the most stable areas of the country. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) #

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