No rest in Afghanistan


Photo: AFP/Jeff Pachoud
AFP PHOTO/Jeff Pachoud

By Jeff Pachoud


At the end of of September, I spent 10 days in Afghanistan with different units from the French army. The day I took the above photo, we were with a military convoy that was heading back to Kabul from Naghlu, about 40 kilometres east of the capital.

On the way, we stopped in a village, where troops gave the kids some kites that had been made by students at a school in Clermont-Ferrand in central France.

Photo: AFP/Jeff Pachoud
AFP PHOTO/Jeff Pachoud

Shortly after leaving Naghlu, we visited an advance post manned by Afghan national police, part of whose job it is to check for roadside bombs on the routes taken by foreign troops. A few days before we got there, they’d found a large, unexploded rocket, which they now showed to the French troops so they could diffuse it.

As the head of the French squad spoke to local commanders and the police, the French troops remained extremely vigilant. I was free to work as I wanted but on the understanding I would never photograph the interpreters, whose line of work puts them at risk of reprisals, especially after coalition troops quit the country in 2014.

I climbed onto the roof of the barracks and suddenly saw this scene. It was surreal. The Afghan police had put their beds outside -- it was still the hot season and they apparently preferred to sleep in the cool, night air, under the stars.

A French soldier stood guard between the metal beds in the middle of this stunning vista of parched mountains.

Insurgents are never far off in Afghanistan. You can’t see it in the photo, but behind the soldier, on top of one of the far-off hills, a Taliban flag was fluttering in the breeze.

Photo: AFP/Jeff Pachoud
AFP PHOTO/Jeff Pachoud