Afghanistan: April 2012

For nearly three years now, I've been posting monthly photo essays on the war in Afghanistan, and a question I hear fairly often is, "Why do you do this?" My intent is to continue to focus attention on what is actually happening on the ground -- far from policy debates or speeches. As long as we, as a nation, are sending thousands of men and women into harm's way and tasking them with acting on our behalf in a foreign country, we need to be aware of what we are asking them to do, what their lives are like, and what the lives of the Afghan people are like. This is true even if the conflict has been going on for more than a decade -- and even if we don't all agree on whether we should be there at all. As of April 12, 120,000 soldiers from 50 nations are committed to Afghanistan, with 90,000 of them from the United States. All are working toward the planned 2014 withdrawal. Gathered here are images of those involved in this conflict over the past month, as part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan. [41 photos total]

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U.S. soldier Nicholas Dickhut from 5-20 infantry Regiment attached to 82nd Airborne points his rifle at a doorway after coming under fire by the Taliban while on patrol in Zharay district in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, on April 26, 2012. (Reuters/Baz Ratner) #
An Afghan woman looks into the camera in Mazar-i Sharif, capital of Balkh province, on March 30, 2012. Mazar-i Sharif means "Respected Shrine" but the city is known by tourists as the city of the blue mosque which is located in the center of the city known as the Shrine of Hazrat Ali. (Qais Usyan/AFP/Getty Images) #
A controlled detonation takes place on Forward Operating Base Farah, Farah province, Afghanistan, on April 7, 2012. (USAF/Staff Sgt. Jonathan Lovelady) #
A firefighter sprays water on a burning fuel tanker in Kabul April 23, 2012. The cause of the blaze is unknown and police are investigating. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani) #
A U.S. Army Officer from 5-20 infantry Regiment attached to 82nd Airborne walks through a poppy field while on patrol in Zharay district in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, on April 26, 2012. (Reuters/Baz Ratner) #
A U.S. Chinook helicopter flies over Kabul, Afghanistan, during a visit of NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, on April 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq) #
An Afghan National Army soldier enters a house at Zhary district in southern Afghanistan, on April 17, 2012. (Reuters/Baz Ratner) #
View of the Kajaki dam as seen from Forward Operating Base (FOB) Zeebrugge in Kajaki, Afghanistan, on April 20, 2012. (USMC/Lance Cpl. Joseph M. Peterson) #
Smoke rises from a bomb explosion as Afghan policemen (right) look on during an opium poppy eradication operation in Alingar, east of Kabul, on April 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul) #

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A wounded member of the Afghan police reaction force waits for treatment in Alingar, Laghman province, on April 30, 2012. A bomb exploded next to opium poppy fields during a poppy eradication campaign in, wounding two Afghan policemen, police officials said. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul) #
A lightning storm over Forward Operating Base Salerno, April 9. (US Army/Spc. Eric-James Estrada) #
Parents and wife of Cpl. Michael J. Palacio, 23, from Lake Elsinore, California, hold on to flags presented to them during a memorial service and funeral in Orange County, California, on April 10, 2012. Palacio died while participating in combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan, on March 29, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (USMC/Cpl. Khoa Pelczar) #
A German soldier keeps watch during a patrol near Taloqan, the capital of Takhar province, on April 2, 2012. Germany is the third biggest supplier of troops to the 128,000-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), after the US and Britain. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images) #
Georgian soldiers and a translator greet Afghans traveling on the major supply route while on patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan. (US Army/Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Duran) #
Gunfire and smoke come from the a building occupied by militants during a battle with Afghan-led forces, in Kabul, on April 16, 2012. The Afghan capital awoke to a second day of explosions and heavy gunfire as Afghan-led forces worked to defeat insurgents holed up in the building in the heart of the city and another near parliament. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq) #

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The feet of dead Taliban insurgents, after they were killed inside a building in Kabul, on April 16, 2012. Heavy street fighting between militants and security forces in the center of the Afghan capital Kabul ended after 18 hours of intense gunfire, rocket attacks and explosions, police and government officials said. (Reuters/Mohammad Ismail) #
Afghan policemen are mirrored in glass from a broken window as they stand guard outside the building where Taliban fighters launched an attack in Kabul on April 16, 2012. A total of 36 Taliban militants were killed as they mounted a wave of attacks across Afghanistan, Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi said. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Marine MRAP sits on a patrol base in Helmand province, run by 5th ANGLICO and Co. A, 31st Georgian Light Infantry Battalion. The Georgians' mission is to provide security for the local area and a main supply route. (US Army/Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Duran) #
An Afghan boy cycles on the outskirts of Kabul on April 26, 2012. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/GettyImages) #
German soldiers in a mountain village near Mazar-i-Sharif patrol the road on on April 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Axel Schmidt) #
A three-legged cat looks on in front of prosthetic limbs at one of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) hospitals for war victims and the disabled in Kabul, on April 14, 2012. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan man stands with a scarf in front of a tea shop during the early evening in the old city of Kabul, on April 8, 2012. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images) #
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Aaron Burnett, scout sniper with 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6, runs his ghillie suit through the mud and water on Forward Operating Base Jackson, Helmand province, on April 20, 2012. The snipers were breaking in their ghillie suits to resemble the local dirt and vegetation. (USMC/Sgt. Logan W. Pierce) #
Insurgents stand blindfolded as they are presented to the media, after being captured by security forces, in Kandahar, on March 29, 2012. (Jangir/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan man watches U.S. Marines and Afghan National Army soldiers conduct a satellite patrol along a poppy field in Marjah, on April 17, 2012. (USMC/Lance Cpl. David A. Perez) #
An Afghan girl drinks water at the Nasaji Bagrami refugee camp in Kabul, on April 18, 2012. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images) #
A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365, 3rd Marine Air Wing (Forward), lands at Forward Operating Base Jackson, Helmand province, on April 25, 2012. (USMC/Sgt. Logan Pierce) #
A boy welds a broken wheelbarrow in the old city of Kabul on April 11, 2012. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images) #
Yeager, an IED detection dog, lies in front of a battlefield cross as Staff Sgt. Derick Clark, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Dale Reeves observe a moment of silence in honor of Lance Cpl. Abraham Tarwoe, a dog handler and mortarman who served with Weapons Company, 2nd Bn., 9th Marines, during a memorial service on April 22, 2012. Tarwoe, who became Yeager's handler in July 2011, was killed in action during a dismounted patrol in support of combat operations in Helmand province's Marjah district on April 12. (USMC/Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez) #
A boy exercises on Wazir Akbar Khan hill above Kabul, on April 8, 2012. (Reuters/Mohammad Ismail) #

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Wounded U.S. soldiers lie on the ground at the scene of a suicide attack in Maimanah, the capital of Faryab province north of Kabul, on April 4, 2012. A suicide bomber blew himself up, killing at least 10 people, including three NATO service members, officials said. (AP Photo/Gul Buddin Elham) #

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A U.S. soldier shouts at a cameraman at the scene of a suicide attack in Maimanah, Afghanistan ,on April 4, 2012. A suicide bomber blew himself up killing at least 10 people, including three NATO service members, officials said. A senior U.S. defense official has confirmed that two U.S. soldiers were among three NATO forces killed in the attack. (AP Photo/Gul Buddin Elham) #
U.S. Army National Guard Specialist Wilson Berlin, a Security Force (SECFOR) member of Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Farah, works on his weapon system while pulling security on Forward Operating Base (FOB) Farah, Farah Province, Afghanistan on April 3, 2012. (ISAF/Staff Sgt. Jonathan Lovelady) #
Roosters duel during a cockfighting match in Kabul, on April 20, 2012. Cockfighting, known as "Murgh Janghi" in the Afghan Dari language, is a popular game among Afghans during the winter season, which was once banned by the Taliban rulers. Each fight starts following an agreement of the owners of roosters and the amount of betting by spectators. The heels and bills of the birds are sharpened before fights, which run around 4-6 rounds with each round lasting between 10 to 20 minutes with a gap of 5 minutes between bouts. Some 100,000 to 200,000 Afghanis (2,000 to 4,000 USD) can exchange hands among spectators placing bets during these fights. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images) #
A German soldier with mud on his face smiles on April 15, 2012 in Kunduz, after spending the day on a tank. (AP Photo/Axel Schmidt) #
Coalition soldiers from the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command pause to remember the fallen during an ANZAC Day ceremony held on April 25, 2012. (ISAF) #
Injured U.S. Army dog handler Aaron Yoder and his dog Bart, attached to Alpha troop 4-73 Cavalry Regiment, 4th brigade 82nd Airborne division, are evacuated in a helicopter during a fire exchange with Taliban fighters while on a mission in the Maiwand district in Kandahar province, on April 9, 2012. (Reuters/Baz Ratner) #
Matt Kinsey, who served in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, readies himself to run to second base during the Wounded Warrior Amputee Celebrity Softball Classic at Nationals Park in Washington, DC, on April 3, 2012. With a team comprised of veterans and active duty service members from across the United States who lost limbs while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, members of the Washington Nationals Wounded Warrior softball team travel the country competing against able-bodied opponents. (Win McNamee/Getty Images) #
An Afghan boy pretends to box at a graveyard in the city of Kabul, on April 17, 2012. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan horseman rides at the sunset beside Qargha Lake in Kabul, on April 5, 2012. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan policeman carries a poppy flower in the barrel of his gun, in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province, on April 9, 2012. (Reuters/Baz Ratner) #

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