February 08, 2008

Winning Photo

Today's World Press Photo Award was awarded to Tim Hetherington for a picture he took for Vanity Fair. The picture is of a tired soldier from 2/503 in the Karengal Valley located in northern Kunar province.

For those who think of Afghanistan as a Pashtun insurgency in the southern provinces, the fighting in the Karangal offers an abject lesson on the complexity of the insurgencies in the country. The Karangali sect of Nuristanis speak a unique dialect of Nuristani only spoken in the valley and unintelligible to all other Afghans. The valley has difficult terrain ranging from jungle to alpine and has traditionally been a hotbed of resistance to the Afghan government, no matter who was in charge. Much of the conflict is over natural resources, particularly the lumber trade. Narcotics, so prevalent in the south, are a relative non-factor. Oh, and the Karangalis really don't like us or the Afghan government (or from what I can tell, pretty much anyone who is not a Karangali)

And how dangerous is the place? Well, the tired soldier has good reason to be tired. 1-32 Infantry previous to it (subject of an excellent WSJ article last year by Mike Philips) and 2/503 Airborne now have been the most engaged battalions in Afghanistan, from any country.