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January 9, 2012

Afghanistan, December 2011

The United States and allied forces have been in Afghanistan for over ten years, an occupation that approaches the 2014 deadline for a full withdrawal of those forces. As the transition draws closer, problems with security, the economy, and cultural mores are growing even more apparent. Included in this monthly look at Afghanistan are images that highlight these issues, as well as images that point to a more hopeful future. The activist group YoungWomen4Change prepares posters demanding women's rights even as the horrific torture of 15-year-old Sahar Gul, who refused her husband's family's demands that she become a prostitute, came to light. Also included here are images of another Afghan girl, 12-year-old Tarana Akbari, who witnessed the terrible suicide bombing in Kabul that killed at least 80 Shiites during observances of the Ashura holiday. The bombing has raised fears of renewed sectarian violence. -- Lane Turner (37 photos total)

A man feeds pigeons in front of the Shrine of Hazrat Ali, or Blue Mosque, in Mazar-e-Sharif on December 22, 2011. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Boys play on the ice on the outskirts of Kabul on December 30, 2011. (Ahmad Jamshid/Associated Press) #

A man sells street food to children in Kandahar city on December 18, 2011. (Jangir/AFP/Getty Images) #

Members of the activist group YoungWomen4Change arrange posters demanding rights for women in Kabul on December 23, 2011. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters) #

A girl who was tortured for months after refusing prostitution lies on a hospital bed in Kabul on December 31, 2011. Sahar Gul, 15, was brutally tortured, beaten, and locked in a toilet by her husband's family for months after she refused to become a prostitute, officials said. She was in critical condition when she was rescued from a house in northern Baghlan province, and doctors said her recovery could take weeks. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters) #

An addict injects heroin to his hand in Mazar-i Sharif on December 9, 2011. (Qais Usyan/AFP/Getty Images) #

Ellie Kealey, one of the organizers of "Secret Cinema", walks in an underground area before a screening in Kabul December 8, 2011. In a dusty, dimly lit Kabul basement, British cinema fan club "Secret Cinema" launched their first movie event outside Britain, bringing costume, audience participation, and light-hearted mystery to the high-security Afghan capital. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters) #

Circus players show their skills during a show in Kabul on December 21, 2011. (Musadeq Sadeq/Associated Press) #

Afghanistan soccer players react after winning their semifinal soccer match against Nepal during the South Asian Football Federation competition in New Delhi on December 9, 2011. (Gurinder Osan/Associated Press) #

Players participate in the Kabul Sevens Rugby Tournament in the Chaman-e Hozouri area of Kabul on December 23, 2011. Afghanistan kicked off its first official rugby tournament with organizers hoping the game will one day be as popular as buzkashi, a kind of polo played with the carcass of a headless goat. Cricket and football have already gained a strong following, and regional sporting success has offered a rare glimmer of hope in the war-wracked country. But enthusiasts believe Afghans, who have faced decades of conflict and hardship, are even better suited to the rough and tumble of the rugby field, which is more akin to the national sport buzkashi, without the need for horses. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images) #

A miller pauses at his mill in Mazar-i Sharif on December 11, 2011. (Qais Usyan/AFP/Getty Images) #

Men work to build a bridge funded by the North Afghanistan Stabilization Program funded by the German foreign ministry near Kunduz on December 11, 2011. (Thomas Peter/Reuters) #

Miners and local residents wait for news after an accident outside a coal mine in which 11 miners died in Narin, Baghlan province on December 24, 2011. (Jawed Dehsabzi/Associated Press) #

A man prays at a grave in a cemetery in Kabul on December 9, 2011. (Ahmad Jamshid/Associated Press) #

A Shiite man beats himself with blades during a Muharram procession in Kabul on December 6, 2011 to commemorate the martyrdom of Hussein bin Ali in the year 680. A suicide bomber struck a crowd of Shiite worshippers at a mosque moments later, killing scores of people in the deadliest of two attacks on a Shiite holy day - the first major sectarian assaults since the fall of the Taliban a decade ago. (Musadeq Sadeq/Associated Press) #

People react seconds after a suicide blast targeting a Shiite Muslim gathering in Kabul on December 6, 2011. A suicide bomber attacked a Shiite Muslim shrine in central Kabul where a crowd of hundreds had gathered for the festival of Ashura, killing scores of people in what appeared to be an unprecedented sectarian attack. (Najibullah Musafer/Reuters) #

Tarana Akbari (in green) and other Shia Muslims cry near dead and injured after explosions during a religious ceremony in the center of Kabul on December 6, 2011. The blast came in the city center where Shias had gathered to carry out religious rituals to mark the day, a public holiday in Afghanistan. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images) #

Twelve-year-old Tarana Akbari (left) is kissed by her mother Bibi Hava in their home in Kabul on December 10, 2011. Akbari was photographed crying surrounded by injured and dead relatives after a bomb blast on December 6 near a shrine on the Shiite holy day of Ashura. Afghanistan said the death toll from bombings targeting the Shiite Muslim holy day of Ashura, which raised fears the nation could face an eruption of sectarian violence, has climbed to 80. The twin blasts have prompted fears that Afghanistan could see the sort of sectarian violence that has pitched Shiite against Sunni Muslims in Iraq and Pakistan. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images) #

Twelve-year-old Tarana Akbari pauses during an interview with an AFP reporter after visiting her sister, who was wounded in a bomb attack against Shiite Muslims, in a hospital in Kabul on December 8, 2011. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) #

Afghan National Army cadets attend their graduation ceremony at the Ghazi Military Training Centre in Kabul on December 15, 2011. International troops in Afghanistan and all NATO-led combat forces are due to leave by the end of 2014, when Kabul will assume responsibility for the country's security. Some 300,000 Afghan Army and Police have been trained so far. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) #

Afghan National Army cadet graduates stand in a group during a graduation ceremony on the outskirts of Mazar-i-Sharif on December 18, 2011. (Qais Usyan/AFP/Getty Images) #

A police officer washes dishes at an observation post in the Sar Hawza district of Paktika province in this November 30 photograph released December 8, 2011. US forces achieved a rare concrete victory in the often undefined Afghan war when they seized this key mountain pass from the Taliban four months ago. But as American troops draw down in the war, it will fall on Afghan soldiers and police to hold this dirt road in eastern Afghanistan's Taba Kakar mountains. So far, the signs are not encouraging. (Heidi Vogt/Associated Press) #

A soldier of the Afghan National Army looks through the cockpit of a derelict Russian helicopter as he guards Kunduz airport on December 10, 2011. (Thomas Peter/Reuters) #

Women line up as a policeman keeps watch during the distribution of winter assistance in Kabul by the UN Refugee Agency for the most vulnerable returnees, Internally Displaced Persons, and others at risk in the cold winter on December 27, 2011. The Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation and UNHCR together provide essential non-food winter items to some 200,000 vulnerable people throughout Afghanistan as part of a coordinated emergency preparedness program against the harsh winter. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters) #

An Afghan border policewoman aims her weapon during a live firing exercise in Herat on December 28, 2011. The process of taking over security from NATO-led ISAF forces by Afghan troops should be completed by the end of 2014. (Hoshang Hashimi/Associated Press) #

German Bundeswehr soldiers rehearse the "Nativity of Jesus" in the camp of the International Security Assistance Force in Kunduz on December 10, 2011. A group of the ISAF soldiers in Kunduz, led by the military chaplain (left), performed an adaptation of the accounts of the New Testament for their fellow soldiers during Christmas celebrations. (Thomas Peter/Reuters) #

German soldiers of the International Security Assistance Force play the game "Shepard and his Sheep" during downtime outside the settlement of Nawabad in the Chahar Dara district on December 14, 2011. (Thomas Peter/Reuters) #

A German Bundeswehr soldier leaves a tent in the shelter area of the ISAF camp in Kunduz on December 10, 2011. (Thomas Peter/Reuters) #

A German soldier of the ISAF gives a tennis ball to children during a patrol in the village of Isa Khel in the Chahar Dara district on December 16, 2011. (Thomas Peter/Reuters) #

A German ISAF soldier's boots are covered in mud in the compound of a German base which is attached to the Afghan National Police headquarters in the Chahar Dara district near the northern city of Kunduz December 16, 2011. (Thomas Peter/Reuters) #

Locals lead a camel carrying branches past a soldier of the German ISAF near the settlement of Nawabad in the Chahar Dara district on December 14, 2011. (Thomas Peter/Reuters) #

A US boom operator staff sergeant Stephen Felger of the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing, looks out of the KC-135 Stratotanker during the aerial refueling of a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft flying from Afghanistan to Kyrgyzstan on December 18, 2011. (Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP/Getty Images) #

Sgt. Wesley Newton throws his son Noah, 4, on his shoulders with his wife Anne on December 7, 2011 at the Nebraska National Guard Air Base in Lincoln, Neb. About 100 Nebraska Army National Guardsmen and women from the 195th Forward Support Company returned home after serving in Afghanistan. (Corey Perrine/The World-Herald/Associated Press) #

Family members and volunteers applaud US troops arriving at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on December 24, 2011 in Irving, Texas. Hundreds of family members and volunteers gathered to meet more than 350 troops who arrived on Christmas Eve for their two-week leave from deployments in Afghanistan and Kuwait. (John Moore/Getty Images) #

Injured US Marine Cpl. Burness Britt points to the scar on his head in his room in the Hunter Holmes Medical Center in Richmond, Va. on December 13, 2011. Britt is facing a long recovery after a large piece of shrapnel from an IED in Afghanistan in June 2011 cut a major artery on his neck. During his first operation in Afghanistan he suffered a stroke and became partially paralyzed. (Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press) #

A Marine carry team carries the transfer case containing the remains of Marine Maj. Samuel M. Griffith of Virginia Beach, Va. upon arrival at Dover Air Force Base, Del. on December 16, 2011. The Department of Defense announced the death of Griffith who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. (Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press)#

Carla Buyes touches the coffin holding Marine Cpl. Adam Buyes during a memorial service for her son at New Hope Foursquare Church in Salem, Ore. on December 10, 2011. The 21-year-old was killed December 26 while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan. (Thomas Patterson/Statesman Journal/Associated Press)#


 
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