Thinking Images v.6: Gaith Abdul-Ahad’s Taliban photographs


Thinking Images – an occasional series on some of the week’s visuals and the thoughts they prompt…

The visual landscape of the war in Afghanistan is primarily, and necessarily, a product of embedded reporting. However, because it is easier to be embedded with NATO military forces than the Taliban, we have only ever received an unavoidably partial representation of the conflict, no matter how good those accounts are.

Gaith Abdul-Ahad has done many impressive reports from Iraq and Afghanistan for The Guardian in recent years, and this week his story from inside a Taliban unit has offered an important view of the conflict from the other side (see also this article and video in which Abdul-Ahad describes his experience). I think the eleven accompanying photographs are among the few available recording an operational Taliban unit, but I would be interested in hearing of other examples. In many ways the content and form of these pictures is unremarkable, in so far as they mostly show men with weapons moving through the countryside, but as documents of the rarely glimpsed “enemy combatants” they are exceptional.

Patrick Cockburn had a considered article on embedded reporting in The Independent this week, offering more nuance than is suggested by the title alone. Gaith Abul-Ahad shows how being embedded can produce essential journalism.

9 Responses to “Thinking Images v.6: Gaith Abdul-Ahad’s Taliban photographs”

  1. David Arnott

    This is another very fine report from Ghaith Abdul-Ahad.

    There were a couple of other examples of embedding with the Taliban recognised at the Rory Peck Awards last week, both TV reports which were shown on Channel Four. Brief extracts here:

    Najibullah Quraishi – Behind Enemy Lines

    Behind the Masks – Paul Refsdal

  2. JR

    Yes I was going to mention Najibullah Quraishis documentary film as well, it was broadcasted on Yle, the national Finnish Broadcasting Company some time ago.

    The film portraits taliban fighters as quite an opposite of how the western media usually describes them.

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  6. Pete Brook


    I just received Daylight Magazine Issue 8 in the mail –

    Every essay in it related to Afghanistan. Veronique de Viguerie took some photographs while embedded with the Taliban that offer the same privileged view of point as Abul-Ahad’s images.

    Viguerie’s embed was the cause of controversy when one of her images of a Taliban fighter in French army fatigues was published by Paris Match. The embed was arranged by respected Paris Match war correspondent, Eric de Lavarène.

    More on that here –

    Images here –

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