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State of the War in Afghanistan—PICTURES State of the War in Afghanistan—PICTURES

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Dispatches From Afghanistan / National Security

State of the War in Afghanistan—PICTURES

May 9, 2012

The decade-long war in Afghanistan is entering a new phase: the beginning of the drawdown of U.S. troops who first arrived after Sept. 11 and have since loosened the Taliban's grip on power. National Journal Chief Correspondent Michael Hirsh reports on the state of the war in Afghanistan and the progress American and NATO troops are making ahead of the troop withdrawal. Here are images of the scenes that Hirsh encountered:

(RELATED: A Day in the Life of the Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan)

U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, speaks at a shura in Afghanistan. Allen made the case that the main concern in the once-violence-torn province was economic progress more than security. And in general, “in the south and southwest, it really is a post-conflict conversation,” he said.(Michael Hirsh)

The war is complex and requires a multifaceted approach, Allen argues. “There is this sense, and it’s a very Western sense I think, that there is a Napoleonic decisive battle that tends to end wars. In counterinsurgency, it’s much less about that than about creating an enduring capacity that grows and compounds on itself over time. And that’s what’s happened."(Michael Hirsh)

Troops hand out gifts to children at a shura in Ghazni Province.  Through speeches, gifts, and new schoolbooks, the allied-backed government in the region aims to convince the people that the new Afghanistan offers a better life than what the Taliban can provide.(Michael Hirsh)


Musa Khan, the governor of Ghazni Province, countered the Taliban line that he and the national government of President Hamid Karzai were merely stooges of America and the West. “The Taliban are fond of saying that our plans are made up by foreigners, but the clothes you are wearing are also made by foreigners. The Toyotas you are driving, these are also made by foreigners,” he said. “The Taliban are keeping you from the good life and the international community, from sending your children to school, from paving your roads.”(Michael Hirsh)

The timetable on the U.S. drawdown is set for 2014, but Allen says forces will be in Afghanistan for a long time after that. “If your narrative is 'just wait us out,' [and] you’re going to have to wait now for decades ... you're going to start to lose some enthusiasm.”(Michael Hirsh)

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