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    Tonight at 10:30 GMT, Al Jazeera English will be airing Reportage photographer John D McHugh’s new documentary “A Tale of Three Cities.” John writes:

    Afghanistan: A Tale of Three Cities is the latest in an occasional series that I have been making for the People and Power strand of Al Jazeera English, looking at Afghanistan through the prism of 2014. Having spent much of the last eight years immersed in the war, I wanted to talk to ordinary Afghans about their lives, and what 2014 means to them. Last year I made a film called Kabul: City of Hope and Fear in much the same vein, but this time I decided to go to examine some of the regional cities; Herat in the west, Mazar-e Sharif in the north and Jalalabad in the east. What I found was a country struggling with unemployment, violence, kidnapping, corruption and drug addiction, but most of all there is a lack of stability, and with the US withdrawal next year it is hard to see how things will improve.

    See more of John’s photographic work on the Reportage Web site.

    Caption: Afghans watch a motorcycle rider perform in a “Wall of Death” in a park in Herat on September 20, 2013. (Photo by John D McHugh)

    An Afghan National Army soldier tees off at Masum Ghar, in Panjwayi district, Kandahar. US troops are preparing to leave Afghanistan and hand over security leadership to Afghanistan National Security Forces in 2014.

    From Drawdown, by John D McHugh

    Photographer John D McHugh documented the Afghan National Army as they prepare for the departure of foreign forces. He asks, “If the Afghan National Army is poorly trained, poorly armed, and poorly led, how can their chances to defeat the Taliban on their own be assessed as anything other than poor?”

    See more of his photos in his feature, “Observe the Sons of Afghan Marching Towards the War.”

    Caption: HELMAND, AFGHANISTAN - NOVEMBER 2012: Afghan National Army soldiers are seen at the Regional Training Centre in Helmand, 10 Nov 2012. (Photo by John D McHugh/Reportage by Getty Images)

    "The Afghan National Army is regularly derided as being a rag-tag militia, dope-smoking, lazy and irresponsible in battle," writes John D McHugh, a Reportage photographer who recently spent time with ANA soldiers in Helmand Province. He continues:

    There is no doubt that this is true in some cases, but the reality that I have witnessed over my 7 years in Afghanistan is that there are plenty of brave and committed Afghan soldiers who want to serve their country, fight the Taliban, and hope for peace one day. But while bravery and commitment are important traits in a soldier, there are other skills that must be taught to men if they are to have any chance of surviving in a war.

    McHugh is an Irish photojournalist and filmmaker based in London, England. McHugh has worked extensively in Afghanistan since the start of 2006. He has been embedded with US, Canadian, and British troops. His new feature, available via Reportage by Getty Images, is titled “Observe the Sons of Afghan Marching Toward War.”

    Caption: HELMAND, AFGHANISTAN - NOVEMBER 2012: Afghan National Army soldiers take part in Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) training at the Regional Training Centre in Helmand, 17 Nov 2012.

    At some point, almost every photographer has discovered one of their images bouncing around the internet without any credit.  Marksta, a new app developed by Reportage Featured Photographer John D McHugh, allows users to easily add watermarks to images taken on their iPhones.  For a limited time, it’s free on iTunes.

    UPDATE: As of Jan. 28, Marksta has been launched for the iPad. Some other new features are EXIF/IPTC preservation, Flickr integration, and hashtagging for Tumblr, Flickr and Instagram.

    …talk to any coalition troops on the ground and they will tell you the Afghans can fight, but only after they have been fed, clothed, armed and delivered to the battlefield by NATO.  Chief Warrant Officer Klaus Augustinus is a Danish mentor/advisor to the ANA and is on his third tour in Afghanistan. He openly admits that he was unimpressed with the ANA in the past, but now he feels they are making real progress. However, he says, it is the insistence on viewing the ANA through the prism of a Western army that leads to many problems. “Always keep in mind that the Afghan way is the right way,” Klaus says. “We’re not going to do it any faster than they can cope with it. Otherwise we’re going to lose.”

    -Filmmaker and photographer John D McHugh

    Read more and watch the film, Afghanistan: An Army Prepares, here.

    For many years I have heard the American military in Afghanistan use the phrase, “putting an Afghan face on the war.” It is invoked when the coalition has achieved something it wishes to publicise, but wants to give all the credit to the Afghan troops. The theory is that by praising the Afghans their morale is improved, making it more likely that they will do better in the future. At the same time, the media report this Afghan “success” back in the West, giving hope to the public that the Afghans are improving and so the war will soon be over. 

    I feel these portraits…do something I’ve wanted to do for many years. They put an Afghan face on the war!

    -Photographer John D McHugh, on his project The People of Afghanistan


    Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, politician and runner up in the last Afghanistan Presidential election

    Madina Saidi, skateboarder and instructor at the Skateistan NGO

    Lieutenant Jan Aqa, Afghan National Army

    Kabul - A City of Hope and Fear

    Photographer and Filmmaker John D McHugh has been documenting life in Afghanistan’s capital city, its slow rise out of conflict, and the hints of impending disaster that many feel is just around the corner.  

    'As the city holds it breath, waiting for the next assault, one man refuses to give up on Kabul.  It is the city's mayor Muhammad Yunus Nawandish, who is dedicated to putting the capital back on its feet after so many years of destruction and decay. 

    He spends hours every day on the road, inspecting infrastructure construction projects, badgering suppliers and contractors, keeping the pressure up on his officials.  He is renowned for his hands on approach, fond of turning up unannounced at building sites and catching municipal staff unawares.

    He is also dedicated to fighting corruption, particularly tackling what he calls “the land mafia,” which makes getting anything done in Kabul so difficult.  With warlords illegally grabbing land for development, often for putting up their own absurdly extravagant houses, the mayor’s determination is admirable, but very dangerous. “Because the fight against corruption and the land mafia is not so easy, I purchased a piece of land for my grave,” he says, without a trace of fear.’

    Read more at Al Jazeera People & Power


    Bird market, Kabul. Hidden in the back alleys of a bazaar, singing and fighting birds are sold in handmade cages, as they have been for hundreds of years.

    Photos from Afghanistan by John D McHugh; see the full spread in the latest edition of Huffington.

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