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Photo Feature: On Patrol in Afghanistan

Monday, July 9, 2007

Today, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force boasts 32,000 men and women from more than two dozen contributing nations, spread out over Afghanistan's 34 provinces. Some partners (Germany, France) restrict their troops to relatively calm areas in the north where they focus on reconstruction projects. Others (the United States, Britain, Canada, Holland) operate in the southern and eastern provinces, which remain hotbeds of the Taliban insurgency. Below are snapshots of two separate coalition forces at work on the ground in their respective theaters of the conflict. Each national force has a style all their own.

For example, the British use light, smaller armored vehicles that provide maximum mobility and camouflage for a rapid-response, "get in, get out" strategy. It's fast and loose, but effective. The French use light armored vehicles and state-of-the art equipment in less hostile zones. They are very keen on public relations and communicating with locals on a regular basis to address Afghans' needs and concerns.

French forces in VB-2L "Mad Max" light armored vehicles patrol the periphery of Kabul.

A French convoy navigates mud backroads off the Shomali Plains en route to a monthly meeting with Pashtun village elders.

French officers get a progress report from village mayor under the shade of a cherry tree.

British Capt. Jeff Lee instructs troops at Forward Operating Base Price before morning security patrol into Gereshk, Helmand province.

A British soldier passes meat vendors in the main market. The first team member was killed two weeks before in an ambush nearby.

A local Afghan boy put his hands up to a passing Capt. Lee, who is providing overhead cover at the front of a four vehicle convoy.

Empty streets greet the British patrol near the center of Gereshk. Taliban elements are based just
outside the city, from where they stage hit-and-run attacks on Afghan and NATO security forces.

Jason Motlagh is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist and regular WPR contributor. He returned from month-long trip to Afghanistan in late June.