When NATO and the U.S. pull out of Afghanistan at the end of 2014, for many Afghans, the conflict will be far from over.
Tens of thousands of Afghans have been killed, and the country remains as violent as ever -- just on Friday, a suicide bomber killed more than 40 people at a mosque. Afghanistan's security forces appear far from ready to take over, national politicians are as much at war with each other as with the Taliban and the country's government is one of the most corrupt in the world.
Ahead of the 2014 withdrawal, Georgian photographer Mikhail Galustov traveled across the country to document the lives of Afghans during this transition period. He grimly concludes:
As U.S. bases are shuttered or handed over to the Afghan Army and Police, it seems evident that the insurgency will outlast us in the end. Despite ubiquitous prognostications, nobody knows what [or] how events will unfold after we leave. Perhaps the country will manage to sustain some semblance of the status quo. Perhaps it will descend into yet another bloody civil war. And perhaps the country’s fate lies somewhere in between these two scenarios. One thing is certain: most Afghans are apprehensive about the future, and very few are optimistic.
Galustov's photo essay was published on the website Razistan, a new initiative working with both local Afghan photographers and foreign photojournalists. The name Razistan means "land of secrets," and the project aims to give Afghanistan, its people and the war that is raging the attention they deserve.
Check out Mikhail Galustov's amazing series in the slideshow below and visit Razistan's new website for more mind-blowing photography out of Afghanistan.
Early winter landscape in eastern Afghanistan.
Old Humvees at Bagram Air Field.
A U.S. Army soldier stands guard at an outpost in Wardak Province.
Villagers in Garmsir District, Helmand Province.
Bazaar located in the district center of Nawa District, Helmand Province.
Sayed Murad Agha (left) , the governor of Nawzad District, Helmand Province.
A rural school in Kunar Province.
U.S. Marines after an ambush in Garmsir District, Helmand Province.