Afghanistan: December 2012

December in Afghanistan is traditionally a quiet period in the country's decades-old war, and coalition troops suffered only 14 deaths last month, half as many as the previous year. Yesterday, General John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, submitted a post-2014 plan to the Pentagon, laying out options to keep between 6,000 and 15,000 troops in the country after the official NATO withdrawal. (Current troop levels are around 66,000.) The smaller forces would be mainly focused on counterterrorism operations and engaging members of the Taliban and al Qaeda. These photos show just a glimpse of this conflict over the past month, part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan. [38 photos total]

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Newly-graduated Afghan police officers attend their graduation ceremony at a National Police training center in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, on December 27, 2012. Over 177 National police officers graduated after receiving 4 months of training in Jalalabad. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul) #
An Afghan family walks on a road in winter on the outskirts of Kabul, on January 3, 2013. (Reuters/Mohammad Ismail) #
Two U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallions with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), lift M777 howitzers over Helmand province, Afghanistan, on December 29, 2012. (USMC/Sgt. Keonaona C. Paulo) #
An Afghan police officer talks on his telephone at the site of an explosion in Kabul on December 17, 2012. A car bomb exploded at a compound owned by a US-based construction company under contract to the Afghan army, killing at least one person and wounding 15, police said. Five foreigners including those of the US and South Africa were among the wounded, a security source at the company told AFP. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Christmas candle, decorated with dummy cartridges in a repair shop in a German Armed Forces camp near Mazar-i-Sharif, on December 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Sebastian Widmann) #
A round from an Afghan National Army D-30 122mm Howitzer impacts in the distance, during a training exercise on range 4, in Helmand province, on December 11, 2012. (USMC/Lance Cpl. Alexander Quiles) #
An off duty Afghan Police officer reads a comic book with pro Afghan National Army messaging at Nawa District Police Headquarters, Helmand province, on December 16, 2012. The comic was produced as part of a campaign to reinforce confidence on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. A closer view of the comic can be seen here. (USMC/Sgt. John R. Rohrer) #
U.S. Specialist army Gloria Camacho with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force listens to speech of a Chaplain, as she holds her weapon at a church on Christmas Eve at the U.S. base in Kabul, on December 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq) #
An A-10 "Thunderbolt" takes off from Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, for a mission on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2012. (US Army/1st Lt. Henry Chan) #
An Afghan woman waits to receive winter supplies at a UNHCR distribution center for needy refugees at the Women's Garden in Kabul, on January 2, 2013. Hundreds of families living in makeshift shelters around the Afghan capital Kabul collected blankets, charcoal and other supplies on January 2 as authorities struggle to avoid last year's deadly winter toll. With temperatures dropping to -10 Celsius (14 Fahrenheit) at night in the city, the 35,000 refugees who live in the snow-covered camps face a battle to survive dire conditions protected only by plastic sheeting. Despite Afghanistan receiving billions of dollars of aid since 2001, more than 100 children died last year during the harshest winter in two decades, and the UN refugee agency has co-ordinated efforts to avoid repeat fatalities. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) #
Dutch brothers of Afghan origin Massoud (left) and Mahmud Hassani push the "mine kafon", a wind-driven gadget to clear anti-personnel mines, at their Eindhoven workshop on December 19, 2012. According to the men the inexpensive contraption could save thousands of lives in Afghanistan. (Jan Hennop/AFP/Getty Images) #
Paris, a military working dog and other coalition force members prepare for a presence patrol in Farah province, Afghanistan, on December 15, 2012. (USMC/Sgt. Pete Thibodeau) #
A German armored engineer company from Havelberg converted an ATF Dingo armored vehicle into an Advent calendar for the Christmas season. (Bundeswehr/Andrea Bienert) #
Santa Claus, portrayed by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brian Boase, an intelligence chief, Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division, waves to Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, before being dropped off by a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, on December 25, 2012. Boase dressed as Santa and delivered more than 200 care packages to the soldiers and civilians of FOB Salerno. (US Army/Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton) #
An Afghan Policeman stands alert on a peak near his base in Goshta district of Nangarhar province, on December 18, 2012. The Afghan Local Police, branded by some critics as an incompetent Taliban-linked militia, are one of the many security challenges facing the country as international troops withdraw. Only founded in 2010, the ALP is tasked with community-level policing to suppress violence in some of Afghanistan's most dangerous and remote areas, and despite its many opponents it has had some success. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) #
Afghan villagers pray over the bodies of girls who were killed by an explosion in Jalalabad, on December 17, 2012. A blast killed 10 Afghan girls, between nine and 11 years old, as they were collecting firewood in eastern Afghanistan, government officials said. (Reuters/Parwiz) #
Coalition force members maintain security from a light-tactical all-terrain vehicle during a presence patrol in Farah province, Afghanistan, on December 15, 2012. (USMC/Sgt. Pete Thibodeau) #
Afghan men guide firefighters after a huge fire swept through a market in Kabul, on December 23, 2012. A huge fire swept through a market in downtown Kabul, destroying hundreds of shops and forcing the city's nearby money exchange to evacuate, police and witnesses said. There were no reports of any casualties in the early morning blaze which destroyed most of the cloth market's 500 shops, Kabul fire department officials told AFP. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images) #
Afghan refugee boys wrap themselves with blankets to avoid the evening cold while sitting in a wooden cart as they look at a group of girls playing hopscotch in a field on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen) #
AV-8B Harrier pilot, USMC Capt. Eric Scheibe, with Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 231, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, conducts an aerial refuel over southern Helmand province, Afghanistan on December 6, 2012. (USMC/Cpl. Gregory Moore) #
Returning from a week-long trip to Afghanistan, Marine Staff Sgt. Glen Silva sits in the back of the Black Hawk helicopter, wearing a protective airsoft mask at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, on December 9, 2012. The visit was called "Operation Proper Exit", a program sponsored by Troops First Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to provide meaningful assistance to service members who have suffered devastating injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan. (US Army/Spc. Alexander Neely) #
Newly graduated Afghan National Police officers attend a graduation ceremony at a National Police training center in Jalalabad, on December 27, 2012. (Reuters/ Parwiz) #
Internally displaced Afghan children from Helmand province, wait for winter relief assistance from the United Nation's refugee agency at a refugee camp in Kabul, on December 30, 2012. Around 600 internally displaced families received winter relief assistance distributed by the United Nation's refugee agency. The writing on the blanket reads "Lets Enjoy Your Life!" (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq) #
Flares from a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter disperse while flying to Kandahar, Afghanistan, on December 16, 2012. (Department of Defense/D. Myles Cullen) #
The shadow of a German ATF Dingo armored vehicle, cast near Mazar-i-Sharif, on December 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Sebastian Widmann) #
An Afghan nomad kisses his young daughter while watching his herd in Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan. In southern Helmand province, one of Afghanistan's deadliest battlefields, angry residents say 11 years of war has brought them widespread insecurity. They say they are too afraid to go out after dark because of marauding bands of thieves and during the day corrupt police and government officials bully them into paying bribes. Development that was promised hasn't materialized and the Taliban's rule is often said to be preferred. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #
An Army carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Spc. Tyler J. Orgaard at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, on December 5, 2012. According to the Department of Defense, Orgaard, 20, of Bismark, North Dakota, died December 3, 2012 in Lashkar Gah City, Afghanistan of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark) #
Snow accumulates on a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a snowstorm at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, on December 27. 2012. (US Army/Sgt. Duncan Brennan) #
Internally displaced Afghans wait in line to receive firewood donated by Welt Hunger Hilfe "German Agro Action" in Kabul, on December 30, 2012. Around 240 internally displaced families received firewood. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq) #
At Camp Pendleton, California, eight-year-old Alex Velasquez waits for his father, Staff Sgt. Andres Velasquez, to return from a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan just in time for the holidays, on December 20, 2012. (USMC/Cpl. Joshua Young) #
A U.S. Army soldier assigned to the 132nd Multirole Bridge Command, 507th Engineer Battalion, tightens a bolt during the construction of an Acrow fixed panel bridge in support of Operation Golden Gate in Sangin, Afghanistan, on December 9, 2012. Operation Golden Gate, a joint-service project amongst the U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, and Army, is designed to improve the infrastructure for the local population. (USMC/Cpl. Kowshon Ye) #
Fatima, 13, holds a picture of her mother Narges Rezaeimomenabad, suspected of killing a U.S. contractor at a police headquarters, at her home in Kabul, on December 26, 2012. Narges suffered from mental illness and was driven to suicidal despair by poverty, her children told Reuters. On Monday morning, she loaded a pistol in a bathroom at the police compound, hid it in her long scarf and shot an American police trainer, apparently becoming the first Afghan woman to carry out such an attack. She remains in custody as officials try to discover her motive, and if she had outside help. (Reuters/Mohammad Ismail) #
A. U.S. Marine assigned to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment (2/7) takes a nap in the Morale Welfare and Recreation center on Forward Operating Base Now Zad, in Helmand province, on December 17, 2012. (USMC/Cpl. Alejandro Pena) #
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gregory Moore, combat videographer with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, sits on the back of a KC-130J Hercules to capture imagery of AV-8B Harriers flying over mountains in Helmand province, on December 6, 2012. (USMC/Staff Sgt. Loobens Alphonse) #
An Afghan man walks through a snowfall with his goat, in Kabul, on December 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Ahamd Jamshid) #
NATO troops from the International Security Assistance Force dance during celebrations of New Year's Eve right before the start of 2013 in Kabul, on December 31, 2012. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images) #
U.S. Army Spc. Dustin Day-Griffith, 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division, fires a 120mm mortar during a night-fire exercise at Combat Outpost Wilderness, Afghanistan, on December 16, 2012. (US Army/Sgt. 1st Class Abram Pinnington) #
An Afghan girl makes her way through a cemetery near Forward Operating Base Now Zad, in Helmand province, on December 19, 2012. (USMC/Cpl. Alejandro Pena) #

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