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Afghanistan: April 2014

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Earlier this month, Afghans went to the polls despite scattered Taliban attacks and threats of even more violence, taking part in the first democratic transfer of power since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. No candidate won a clear majority, so a run-off election will be held in June. As Afghans look toward their uncertain future, NATO forces continue their draw-down. Soldiers are at work demolishing structures on Forward Operating Bases, preparing to hand over property to the Afghan government, and readying huge amounts of equipment for redeployment before the scheduled pull-out by the end of 2014. Gathered here are images from the past month, part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan. [40 photos]

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Afghan National Army soldiers prepare to participate in a military exercise on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, on April 30, 2014. The Afghan National Security Forces depend exclusively on billions of dollars in funding from the United States and its allies, money that is now at risk after President Hamid Karzai's refusal to sign a security agreement to keep a small U.S. force of trainers in the country after the NATO-led coalition ends its mission and withdraws at the end of the year. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
Afghan National Army soldiers prepare to participate in a military exercise on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, on April 30, 2014. The Afghan National Security Forces depend exclusively on billions of dollars in funding from the United States and its allies, money that is now at risk after President Hamid Karzai's refusal to sign a security agreement to keep a small U.S. force of trainers in the country after the NATO-led coalition ends its mission and withdraws at the end of the year. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
An Afghan National Army soldier looks out from a rocky overlook as soldiers with the U.S. Army's 2nd Battalion 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division patrol below on March 31, 2014 near Pul-e Alam, Afghanistan. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
U.S. Air Force Capt. Kyle Babbitt, 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, flies a combat sortie over northeastern Afghanistan on April 2, 2014. (USAF/Tech. Sgt. Jason Robertson) #
A supporter of Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah attends the final day of election campaigning outside Kabul on April 2, 2014. The Afghan presidential elections were held on April 5. (Reuters/Ahmad Masood) #
An Afghan woman walks in the courtyard of Hazrat-e Ali shrine, or 'Blue Mosque' in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif on April 17, 2014. (Farshad Usyan/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan man and boy lead donkeys loaded with ballot boxes and other election material to be transported in polling stations which are not accessible by road in Shutul, Panjshir province, on April 4, 2014. (Reuters/Ahmad Masood) #
Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah smiles before a news conference in Kabul on April 27, 2014. The two leading candidates in the race to become Afghanistan's next president rallied supporters and urged election officials to come clean on fraud on Sunday as the country readied for an expected grueling run-off in June. Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, both ministers in the transition government after U.S.-led forces drove the Taliban from power in 2001, shared over three-quarters of the nearly 7 million votes cast, but neither clinched an absolute majority. (Reuters/Mohammad Ismail) #
Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai speaks during a news conference, in Kabul on April 27, 2014. Afghanistan released preliminary results in its crucial presidential election on April 26, but the results are only one step in a potentially long road to determine who will succeed President Hamid Karzai. Neither of the two leading vote-getters, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, won a majority, meaning the country is heading for a runoff. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini) #
Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah, sitting atop a vehicle, arrives for an election campaign in Panjshir province on March 31, 2014. (Reuters/Ahmad Masood) #
An Afghan policeman clips his mobile phone on his armored vest during an election campaign for Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani in Kabul, on April 1, 2014. (Reuters/Mohammad Ismail) #
The bloodied arm of a dead Taliban fighter lies over an election poster at the site of a suicide attack on an election commission office in Kabul on March 25, 2014. Fifteen people died in violence around Afghanistan less than two weeks before the country's presidential poll. The insurgents vowed a campaign of violence to disrupt the ballot, urging their fighters to attack polling staff, voters and security forces in the run-up to election day. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images) #
Afghan men line up before casting their votes in a polling station in Herat, Afghanistan, on April 5, 2014. Afghan voters lined up for blocks at polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban. (AP Photo/Hoshang Hashimi) #
Afghan women wait to cast their ballots at a polling station in Mazar-i-Sharif on April 5, 2014. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra) #
Ink stains the finger of a soldier with the Afghan National Army, proof that he voted, while he works in the tactical operations center directing security for the election at Camp Maiwand near Pul-e Alam, Afghanistan, on April 5, 2014. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
Election officials hold a ballot during the vote-counting process at a polling station in Herat Province on April 5, 2014. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani) #
Afghan electoral workers sort ballot boxes at a counting center in Kabul on April 10, 2014. Afghanistan's presidential election last Saturday may have suffered a significant degree of fraud, the country's election complaints commission said, warning that all votes cast irregularly would be thrown out. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani) #
An Afghan man dances a national dance, "attan" during a gathering celebrating the peaceful elections in Kabul on April 17, 2014. Afghan civil rights activists organized the gathering in appreciation of Afghanistan's security forces, police army and intelligence forces. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan farmer works on a poppy field in the Khogyani district of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, on April 17, 2014. Last May's harvest produced a staggering 5,500 metric tons (6,000 tons) of opium, 49 percent higher than the previous year and more than the combined output of the rest of the world, according to a recent report issued by the United Nations' drug control agency. Poppy cultivation is expected to increase in both eastern and western provinces of the country. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul) #
An U.S. Air Force KC-10 Extender aerial tanker and cargo aircraft from the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron moves into position to refuel another KC-10 in the sky over Afghanistan on April 3, 2014. (USAF/Tech. Sgt. Jason Robertson) #
An Afghan farmer works on his farm in the Kishindih district of northern Balkh Province on April 3, 2014. (Farshad Usyan/AFP/Getty Images) #
Afghan stage actors re-create the attack on Afghan AFP reporter Sardar Ahmad and his family, and their tragic death, in a stage performance in Herat province on April 10, 2014. Sardar, his wife and two of their children were killed in a Taliban attack, as four teenage gunmen with concealed pistols carried out a raid on the prestigious Serena hotel just weeks before the election. Sardar Ahmad, 40, his wife Homaira, six-year-old daughter Nilofar and five-year-old son Omar were among nine civilians to have lost their lives in the assault. (Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images) #
Abuzar Ahmad, the youngest son of slain Afghan AFP reporter Sardar Ahmad, poses for a photograph during a visit by his family at a local hospital in Kabul on April 6, 2014. The orphaned Afghan child whose family was gunned down in a luxury Kabul hotel may soon leave hospital after recovering rapidly from bullet wounds to his skull, chest and thigh, doctors said. Abuzar, aged two years and 11 months, suffered fragment wounds in the shooting on March 20 that killed his father, mother, sister, and brother. Abuzar's relatives hope that he will start a new life with many of his cousins who live in Toronto, Canada. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan National Army soldier, assigned to the 215th Corps, stands next to an ANA Humvee as a sandstorm approaches, in Camp Shorabak, Helmand province, on April 5, 2014. (USMC/Lance Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal) #
Clergymen stand in front of the coffin of late German photojournalist Anja Niedringhaus during the obsequies at Corvey Abbey in Hoexter, Germany, on April 12, 2014. Whil covering the upcoming elections, Niedringhaus was killed by an Afghan policeman in an attack on April 4, 2014. (Frank Augstein/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Czech Republic soldier with the 1st Mechanized Company, 41st Battalion, 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade, on patrol across a bridge over the Drya Ye Panjshayr River, Parwan province, on April 29, 2014. The patrol was conducted to find the origins of rocket attack sites used against Bagram Air Field. (U.S. Army/Cpl. George Huley) #
Afghan children weave carpets in a house used as a traditional carpet workshop in the northwestern city of Herat on April 1, 2014. Carpets are Afghanistan's best-known export, woven mostly by women and children in the north of the country, a trade which once employed, directly or indirectly, six million people, or a fifth of the country's population, but that figure has dropped sharply. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images) #
Afghan National Police officers attend a graduation ceremony at a police training center in Kabul on April 17, 2014. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) #
Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles are staged, waiting to have a full "agriculture wash" in Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, on April 3, 2014. Every MRAP must go through the agriculture wash to clean all foreign contaminants on the vehicle in order to pass an inspection before being removed or redeployed. (USMC/Cpl Dustin D. March) #
Staff Sgt. Tito Stephen (left), Sgt. Carlos Walker (center), and Sgt. Lakendrick Coleman, all with the Mississippi-based 858th Engineer Company, attached to the 133rd Engineer Battalion, supervise safety during the deconstruction of a housing unit at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army/1st Lt. Harry Corey) #
Mississippi National Guard soldiers with the 858 Engineer Company, 223 Engineer Battalion demolish and haul away structures on Forward Operating Base (FOB) Shank on March 26, 2014 near Pul-e Alam, Afghanistan. As the U.S. changes its role in the 13-year-old war from combatants to advisors many FOBs, like Shank, are being downsized or closed. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
A guard tower that was once in a heavily populated area on FOB Shank is now surrounded by open land and abandoned building sites on April 3, 2014. Shank, which is currently being downsized, is expected to be turned over to the Afghan National Army later this year. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
Army engineers with the 1223rd and 955th Engineer Companies deconstruct a building at Kandahar Air Field on February 18, 2014. The units have deconstructed over 1,000 structures during their deployment and have been vital in aiding with the closure of numerous bases. The closure and transfer of bases is an important step in the positive transition back to normalcy for the local environment. (U.S. Army/Spc. Aaron Ellerman) #
Graffiti left by a previous unit remains on the wall of an abandoned hospital site on FOB Shank that is no longer used due to a shrinking population on the FOB on April 3, 2014. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
A liquor bottle sits on the floor of an abandoned building in an area that was once a heavily populated location of FOB Shank on April 3, 2014. Liquor is strictly forbidden on U.S. military installations in Afghanistan. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
Army engineers with the 1223rd and 955th Engineer Companies deconstruct a building at Kandahar Air Field on February 18, 2014. (U.S. Army/Spc. Aaron Ellerman) #
A sign still remains on a door of an abandoned hospital site on FOB Shank on April 3, 2014 near Pul-e Alam, Afghanistan. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
A building sits abandoned on FOB Shank on April 3, 2014. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
A worn welcome mat and foundation are all that remain of a building site on FOB Shank on April 3, 2014 near Pul-e Alam, Afghanistan. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
An Afghan shopkeeper displays US products at his shop in Bush Market in Kabul on April 1, 2014. Shopkeeper Haji Najimullah is furious with the Americans - not for their long military intervention in Afghanistan, but the fact they are leaving, robbing his market stall of an important supplier. Like hundreds of other stallholders in Kabul's "Bush Bazaar", Najimullah has made a tidy living selling "surplus" equipment and rations -- much of it pilfered -- from the US-led NATO mission in Afghanistan. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) #
Mississippi National Guard soldiers with the 858 Engineer Company, 223 Engineer Battalion demolish and haul away structures on FOB Shank on March 26, 2014. As the U.S. changes its role in the 13-year-old war from combatants to advisors many FOBs, like Shank, are being downsized or closed. Shank is expected to be turned over to the Afghan National Army later this year. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #

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