Afghanistan: The Long Withdrawal

Five years ago, the war in Afghanistan began to escalate drastically. Troop surges soon pushed the number of NATO troops up to more than 140,000, and the levels of violence grew to match the surge. At the time, I felt the conflict was being under-reported relative to other international stories, especially considering the level of commitment involved, so I began a monthly series dedicated to covering the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Now, more than 60 monthly photo essays later, I'm ending the series as a regular feature. I will continue to post photos from Afghanistan through the withdrawal, as well as after the handover—but as an occasional entry, not monthly. In this time, I've been fortunate enough to feature more than 2,000 amazing images of Afghanistan taken by incredibly brave and skillful photographers—telling many aspects of a very difficult story. As of today, there are reportedly fewer than 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, with a withdrawal deadline looming at the end of the year. How many soldiers will stay after the deadline remains in question, as the outcome of the recent Afghan presidential election remains in dispute, and the signing of any long-term agreements is on hold. For the past year, many coalition forces have been involved with what they term retrograde operations, defined by the U.S. Army as "defensive tasks that involve organized movement away from the enemy." Gathered here are images of recent retrograde operations in Afghanistan, from demolition and remediation to demilitarization and evacuation. Today's entry is the last of the monthly series here on Afghanistan.

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