Western forces are losing ground to the Taliban. As US and UK forces struggle for a way forward in Afghanistan, this unique film shows one of the most dangerous outposts as it struggles to hold on.
The photojournalist and film-maker John D McHugh spent months embedded with US troops in Afghanistan in 2008-09. As the situation in the country reaches a critical stage for the British army, this series provides an authoritative guide to the background to the present conflict
Youre the first reporter Ive seen here in 8 months, says Staff Sergeant O Brien, in a rare break from the Talibans incessant fire. This outpost in Kunar province is one of hundreds supposed to allow the Americans to win over locals and control Taliban movements. But its not working. The Taliban control the high ground around the bunker and attack every day. Weve got the most sophisticated equipment in the world, O Brien says but we cant pick up on one guy whos sitting 800 metres away from us shooting. His men have spent 9 months under fire and must rely on what they can. One thing we usually use to determine who the bad guys are is shoe type, O Brien explains. They wear shoes like this to move around the mountains he says comparing it with the sandal worn by a member of the Afghan National Army. Part of the outpost strategy is to mentor the ANA. But the men here see the reality of western forces losing ground. A lot of the reports you see are out of the big bases, where its secure and theres not a lot of fighting. Its in remote outposts like this one that conditions are almost like what the Russians ran in to.