Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Photographing Kandahar

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Photographing Kandahar

Article excerpt

The New America Foundation in Washington, DC held a screening and discussion on June 11 of photographer Louie Palu's photographs from Afghanistan titled "The Fighting Season in Kandahar." Palu spent 2006 through 2010 in southeast Afghanistan photographing U.S. and Afghan forces in combat as well as Afghan citizens living in and around the city of Kandahar.

The evening commenced with Palu narrating a slide show of his photography as well as screening the trailer for "The Durrani Kings," his upcoming documentary on Kandahar. The trailer opened ominously with the words of a Pashtun proverb, "Control Kandahar and you control Afghanistan," written on the screen.

Emphasizing the strategic significance of Kandahar, Palu discussed the city and region in their historical context. He likened the American military experience in Kandahar to Russia's experience there in the 1980s, and even drew comparisons between challenges facing modern militaries in the region and those faced by Alexander the Great. "There aren't that many places in the world where there are so many famous and infamous military leaders who have been there," Palu pointed out.

The evolving Taliban insurgency defined Palu's time in Afghanistan. When he arrived in 2006, he recalled, "It was the middle of a suicide bombing campaign." The Western media had forgotten about Afghanistan and were focused on Iraq. He arrived completely unaware of the major uptick in violence, emphasizing that "There was a big disconnect about what was going on. …

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