TIME Afghanistan

U.S. Transfers 4 Guantánamo Prisoners to Afghanistan

Guantanamo Bay
A U.S. military guard on the grounds of the now closed Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Aug. 22 2013. Johannes Schmitt-Tegge—EPA

The transfer marks the first repatriation of prisoners to Afghanistan since 2009

Four Guantánamo prisoners were transferred to Afghan authorities, the Pentagon said Saturday, as part of a continuing push by the Obama administration to close the contentious prison.

The detainees boarded a U.S. military plane and were flown to Kabul overnight, ending a decade of detention at the prison for suspected involvement in Taliban-affiliated militias, Reuters reports.

“Most if not all of these accusations have been discarded and each of these individuals at worst could be described as low-level, if even that,” an unnamed senior official told Reuters.

The transfer marks the first repatriation of prisoners to Afghanistan since 2009. 132 detainees are still being held at the Guantánamo complex, which President Barack Obama vowed to shut down early in his presidency–a promise he has struggled to carry through amid legal obstacles and stiff resistance from Congress.

Read more at Reuters.

TIME Pakistan

Pakistan Begins 3 Days of Mourning After Peshawar Massacre

But persistent questions remain over the military’s relationship with extremist groups

Pakistanis were in mourning Wednesday after a brutal attack on an army-run school in Peshawar by Taliban militants claimed more than 140 lives, 132 of them children.

Islamabad announced the commencement of a three-day mourning period. Vigils were held across the country as the nation struggled to come to terms with the brutality exhibited in one of the deadliest single-day attacks in the country since the Pakistani Taliban launched its insurgency seven years ago.

In Peshawar, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called on officials from all parties to attend a multiparty conference this week, where they hope to present a unified front against terrorism.

Opposition stalwart Imran Khan, who has previously sought reconciliation with the Taliban, joined the litany of voices on Tuesday condemning the indiscriminate slaughter.

“Fight with men, not innocent children,” said the former cricket star, according to the New York Times.

The deliberate targeting of children appears to have affected even some of the Pakistani Taliban’s most steadfast supporters.

“The intentional killing of innocent people, children and women are against the basics of Islam and this criteria has to be considered by every Islamic party and government,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesperson for the Afghan Taliban, said in a statement, according to Reuters.

But as the nation grieves, tough questions have begun to resurface regarding the Pakistani military’s track record of incubating militancy within the country’s borders.

During an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif rejected the notion that the country’s security establishment maintained relations with extremist groups.

“[These] terrorists are the biggest threat to the peace in this region, to peace in Pakistan, to the existence of Pakistan,” said Asif. “We do not classify between different groups of Taliban — that there are good Taliban or bad Taliban. They are all bad.”

However, analysts contend that factions within the security services continue to see militant groups inside Pakistan as valuable proxies in the battle for influence in neighboring Afghanistan and Kashmir.

“It seems to me that there are elements within the military establishment who are willing to sustain or willing to endure civilian causalities and even military casualties as long as some broader strategic objective is met,” Hassan Javid, associate professor of political science at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, tells TIME.

But as Javid argues, the country’s brutal experience with insurgency has long demonstrated that these groups can never be controlled.

“Given the ideologies that motivate these groups, and given the links they have to other such groups, I think its inevitable that they will turn their guns on Pakistan,” says Javid. “Even if they’re working with them today, there’s always the possibility they will turn around and bite the hand that’s been feeding them a few years down the line.”

Following the attacks, a spokesperson with the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, said the assault on the school was retaliation against the ongoing offensive in the country’s tribal belt.

“We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females,” said Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani. “We want them to feel the pain.”

In June, the Pakistani military launched a full-scale assault on Taliban sanctuaries in North Waziristan, days after militants allied with the group overran a terminal at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport in the heart of the country’s commercial capital

The ongoing military operation in North Warziristan is believed to have been largely successful in uprooting a majority of the militant forces based there, but experts say these extremists are now dispersed throughout the country.

“Over time this militancy has spread into the cities and these kinds of people are hiding and have melted into society,” says Hasan Askari Rizvi, a prominent Pakistani defense analyst. “The military operations can only take place in places like the tribal areas, but not necessarily in urban centers.”

TIME Afghanistan

U.S. Closes Bagram Prison in Afghanistan

Afghan National Army soldiers stand guard at the Bagram prison gate, Feb. 13, 2014.
Afghan National Army soldiers stand guard at the Bagram prison gate, Feb. 13, 2014. Shah Marai—AFP/Getty Images

At its busiest, Bagram prison held hundreds of detainees

The Department of Defense said Thursday that it had shuttered the last American detention facility in Afghanistan, bringing to an end a controversial practice of holding prisoners in the country without trial.

The U.S. said it no longer had custody of detainees in Afghanistan following the transfer on Wednesday of remaining detainees from Bagram Airfield north of Kabul, which once held hundreds of detainees, Reuters reports. In recent weeks, detainees have been shifted out of U.S. custody, including a top Pakistani Taliban member who was handed over to Pakistan and a Tunisian detainee, Redha al Najar, who was placed in Afghan custody on Tuesday.

The Defense Department said the closure had been planned and was not linked to the Congressional report on the CIA’s interrogation tactics. But Bagram has faced criticism for the treatment of its detainees, including two inmates who a U.S. court said were beaten to death in 2002. One detainee who was detained in 2004 at age 16 and held for five years, Pakistan citizen Kamil Shah, told Reuters he was beaten by U.S. personnel and held in isolation for 11 months.

Najar, the transferred Tunisian detainee who was detained in 2002 as a suspected bodyguard to Osama bin Laden, was identified in the Congressional report, which said he had been one of the first to be subjected to the CIA’s harsh interrogation techniques at a prison outside Kabul. He has never been charged.

The U.S. and NATO ceremoniously ended their combat command in Afghanistan on Monday, though some 13,000 troops will remain in the country after the new year.

[Reuters]

Read next: Zap Wars: U.S. Navy Successfully Tests Laser Weapon in the Persian Gulf

TIME Photojournalism Links

Photojournalism Daily: Dec. 11, 2014

A compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Evgenia Arbugaeva‘s photographs of a weather man living in extreme solitude in northern Russia. The photographs follow Vyacheslav Korotki, a Polyarniki – a meteorologist specializing in the polar north, who mans a remote Arctic outpost in Khodovarikha, where he keeps track of the temperatures, snowfall and wind. The closest town to Khodovarikha is an hour away — by helicopter — and visitors are rare with supplies brought in only once a year. From the outside, Korotki’s existence appears to be a lonely one, but as Arbugaeva explains in her accompanying text, she found him to be anything but. This man is right where he wants to be. The pictures are stunning and the viewers can almost feel the Arctic cold. It’s truly extraordinary work.

Evgenia Arbugaeva: Weather Man (The New Yorker)

Larry Towell: Afghanistan (The New York Times Lens) Another look at the Magnum photographer’s Afghanistan work which was recently published as book.

How John Moore Covered the Ebola Outbreak (TIME LightBox) The Getty photographer talks about his assignment covering Ebola in Liberia.

China’s wild west: photographing a vanishing way of life (The Guardian) For her book Wild Pigeon, Carolyn Drake spent seven years exploring China’s Xinjiang and the Uyghurs living there. The work is collaborative as Drake asked the locals to draw on, reassemble and play with her photographs. The work was also published on TIME LightBox in November.

Sim Chi Yin – A Singaporean Abroad (Channel NewsAsia) A TV program on photographer Sim Chi Yin and her long term projects.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 10

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The cheap oil American consumers are enjoying might be the result of an existential battle between Saudi Arabia and ISIS.

By James R. Rogers in First Things

2. Turns out the busts of the first dot-com era were great ideas.

By Robert McMillan in Wired

3. The return of American manufacturing and a skilled population hungry for jobs is reviving the Rust Belt.

By Joel Kotkin & Richey Piiparinen in the Daily Beast

4. Climate change might transform coal, oil, and gas reserves into financially-troubled stranded assets.

By Andrew Freedman in Mashable

5. A nonprofit boarding school for girls in Afghanistan is working to upend education there.

By Susan Daugherty in National Geographic

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Military

U.S. Plans to Keep 1,000 Additional Troops in Afghanistan

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Travels To Mideast
Mohammed Ashraf Ghani President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan walks with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel down a red carpet during an arrival ceremony at the Presidential Palace on Dec. 6, 2014 in Kabul. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who resigned in November, made the remarks on one of his last diplomatic trips to the country

The U.S. military will keep 1,000 more troops in Afghanistan next year than originally planned, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Saturday. The number of troops in the country will be lowered to 10,800 next year. Originally the U.S. had planned to reduce the force to 9,800 troops.

The delayed withdrawal will not affect long-term troop reduction plans, NBC News reports. In 2016, the U.S. still plans to reduce its troops to 5,500. By 2017, the U.S. will only have an embassy presence in the country.

Hagel made the remarks on a trip to Kabul to meet with Ashraf Ghani, the new president of Afghanistan, which will be one of the last diplomatic trips to the country for the defense secretary, who resigned Nov. 24.

[NBC News]

TIME Photojournalism Links

Photojournalism Daily: Dec. 5, 2014

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Andrew Quilty‘s work on Pakistani refugees in Afghanistan. Some 100,000 civilians fled the Pakistani military’s offensive against insurgents in North Waziristan this past summer by seeking shelter across the border in Afghanistan. More than 3,000 families ended up at the Gulan Refugee Camp in Gurbuz District in Khost, only to find out another danger was lurking underneath their feet. It turned out the camp is located above a decades old minefield from the time muhajideen were fighting the Russians. Quilty’s compelling photographs capture these unfortunate refugees haunted by weapons of an old war.


Andrew Quilty: Finding Refuge on a Mine Field (Foreign Policy)

William Daniels: Fighting Over the Spoils of War in Central African Republic (Al Jazeera America) These photographs show how natural riches play a part in the conflict often seen purely in ethnic terms | Part of a series of posts on Central African Republic.

Best Photos of the Year 2014 (Reuters)

War’s effect on peace is examined in new Tate show (Phaidon) Tate Modern curator Shoair Mavlian talks about the new exhibition Conflict, Time, Photography.

Elena Chernyshova (Verve Photo) The World Press Photo award-winning Russian photographer writes about one of her photographs from Norilsk.


Photojournalism Links is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen, Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

TIME Photojournalism Links

Photojournalism Daily: Dec. 4, 2014

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Associated Press photographer Rodrigo Abd’s work on illegal gold mining in Peru. The pictures are from La Pampa, located in the country’s Madre de Dios region, where mining has turned vast areas of untouched rainforest into a scarred, bare, and poisoned wasteland. The government is now trying to tackle the issue, but as Abd’s stunning monochrome panoramic photographs show us, even if they manage to curb illegal gold mining and halt deforestation, wounds inflicted on the land may never heal.

Rodrigo Abd: Peru’s Rainforest Turns to Wasteland From Illegal Gold Mining (NBC News)

Tim Matsui: Lisa: The Legacy of Human Trafficking (MSNBC) Incredibly intimate look at a young West Coast woman’s battle to leave a life of sex work and addiction. | Related feature film: The Long Night.

Souvid Datta: Documenting Drug Addiction in Kabul (TIME LightBox) A look at Afghanistan’s heroin epidemic through addicts and law-enforcement.

AP Photos of the Year 2014 (The Associated Press Images)

Photographing the Moments Between War and Peace (The New York Times Lens) Another look at James Hill’s new book, Somewhere Between War and Peace.

In other news, the 2015 World Photo Photo Contest is now open for entries.

Photojournalism Links is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen, Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

TIME portfolio

Documenting Drug Addiction in Kabul

It took 12 visits for photographer Souvid Datta to gain the trust of drug users in Kabul, Afghanistan

Following his recent graduation from the University College of London, Souvid Datta’s first assignment was in Kabul, Afghanistan. In between his time photographing scenes of contemporary Afghan life, the 23-year-old photographer set out to work on a personal project, documenting heroin addiction in the country Afghanistan.

In Kabul, the Pul-e Sukhta bridge has become the meeting point for hundreds of drug dealers and addicts. Datta struggled, at first, to gain their trust, but, after numerous failed attempts with various fixers, Datta tried a new technique.

“I started going back alone, trying to speak to addicts above and around the bridge in Urdu,” he says. “I did this without my camera out.” It’s only after his 12th visit that he started bringing his camera out with him.

In a country ravaged by decades of war, more than one million of Afghans, rich and poor, are addicted to drugs, according to a United Nations report. “Narcotics are becoming a sad kind of equalizer in the sense that you get middle class government workers, mothers, students, and the very poor people from the streets all going down under this bridge to use drugs,” says Datta.

After meeting and documenting some of these drug users, Datta followed Afghan National Police officers and visited a treatment clinic in Kabul where people are offered therapy and given food, clothes and medication. Yet, he says, because of a lack of resources, there’s no follow-up in terms of employment opportunities and counseling. “As soon as people leave, they relapse. That’s no more obvious than in the center itself where you see people coming in for their fourth or fifth time.”

Souvid Datta is documentary photographer based in London.

Adam Glanzman is a contributor to TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter @glanzpiece

TIME Military

The Drumsticks of War

A member of Afghan security forces arrives at the site of a Taliban attack on a foreign aid workers' guest house in the Afghan capital of Kabul
A member of Afghanistan's security forces arrives at the site of a Taliban attack on a foreign-aid workers' guest house in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Saturday. Three South Africans perished in the attack. Omar Sobhani / Reuters

While Americans enjoyed the holiday weekend, their allies in Afghanistan and Iraq grew increasingly weakened

The average American couldn’t be blamed for missing, over the long Thanksgiving weekend, the growing evidence that the deaths of the 6,841 U.S. troops in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq may have been in vain. The nation is weary of war, and holiday news media coverage—fallout in Ferguson, Mo., Black Friday gluttony and football—reflected America’s growing disinterest.

But for anyone paying attention, the news over the weekend was decidedly bleak.

Suicide attacks have been averaging one a day in the Afghan capital of Kabul over the past two weeks. On Saturday, the Taliban attacked a guesthouse, killing a South African father and his two teenage children. After detailing the carnage Sunday, Kabul’s police chief quit in despair. The same day, President Ashraf Ghani, unable to form a new government, fired most of the ministers he inherited. The Taliban overran what used to be the biggest British army base in southern Afghanistan, a month after the Brits had turned it over to Afghan security forces. (Later, Afghan forces took it back.)

About 1,400 miles away, in Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Sunday that his government has been paying the salaries of at least 50,000 “ghost soldiers.” It’s not like Iraq can afford to pay non-existent troops: al-Abadi also said he has had to toss out his proposed 2015 budget because it was based on selling Iraqi oil at $70 a barrel (it fell to $64 last week, he noted—a cut of nearly 10%). And an Iraqi military helicopter, trying to hit targets belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, killed an innocent pair of brothers Saturday in the town of Yathrib. A second airstrike killed 15 people who were headed to the brothers’ funerals.

Such problems are common in war. They’re just not common after more than a decade of U.S. sacrifice, and repeated pledges by those in charge that such sacrifices will not have been made in vain.

Unfortunately, there’s now no one in charge at the Pentagon. The White House had the temerity to oust Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last Monday—while praising him effusively—without having a candidate to take his place. In the military, that’s called dereliction of duty. During wartime—for those in uniform—it’s punishable by death. For everybody else, it’s just politics.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser