It's been nearly 10 years since the U.S. war in Afghanistan began back in October 2001. Journalists and photographers flocked to Kabul and Tora Bora as the first bombs fell. The iPhone had not yet been invented; it would be another three years until anyone knew what Facebook was. Back then, Afghanistan was a war of necessity, a war of revenge. A decade later, Osama bin Laden -- the erstwhile target of the U.S. invasion -- is dead. The Taliban are dispersed; but still potent, still deadly. And we're almost five generations into the world's favorite smartphone.
The mission in Afghanistan, of course, has changed: from the foremost matter of national security to something more nebulous -- a war of counterinsurgency and nation-building. In these 10 years, Foreign Policy has spent a great deal of column inches and pixels on the conflict -- publishing dispatches and analyses, photo essays and commentary. But in this unique collection of photographs, largely taken on iPhones using an app called Hipstamatic that allows users to digitally manipulate "lenses," "flashes," and "film stock," we found something exceptionally powerful: a record of the lives of U.S. Marines in Helmand province in 2010 and 2011 and of the Afghans they interacted with. It is by no means a comprehensive look at 10 years of war, but it is an evocative and profound slice of life -- at the beginning of the end of the longest conflict in U.S. history.
This experiment in photojournalism comes to FP by way of Teru Kuwayama and Balazs Gardi, who embedded with Marine Battalion 1/8 in Helmand for five months starting in September 2010. They collaborated with three other photographers on a project called Basetrack -- a multiplatform, social-media cornucopia; a hybrid of digital maps and feeds, Facebook posts and musings, interviews and stunning photographs. We're pleased to share their remarkable images with our readers.
Left: Lance Cpl. Kevin Daly during a military operation near Doghaka village in Musa Qala district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, on Nov. 7, 2010. Right: Ali Mohammad, a 10-year-old refugee from Kandahar province, stands in front of his makeshift house in the Charahi Qambar refugee camp in Kabul on Feb. 27.
Left: Amindi, a refugee from Kandahar province, walks through the Charahi Qambar refugee camp on Feb. 27.
Right: A U.S. Marine guards Combat Outpost 7171 in Helmand province on Oct. 28, 2010.
Left: An elderly refugee from Helmand province at the Charahi Qambar refugee camp on Feb. 14.
Right: An Afghan boy in the village of Kunder, Helmand province, on Oct. 29, 2010.
Left: Plainclothes Afghan and U.S. security guards at the site of a suicide bomb attack outside the Kabul City Center shopping mall on Feb. 14.
Right (clockwise from top left): A street vendor sells soft drinks; ISAF troops at the site of a suicide bomb attack; the interior of the newly built Gulbahar Center in Kabul on Feb. 20; veiled women in the downtown market of Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Feb. 23.
Left: U.S. military personnel at the site of a suicide bomb attack outside the Kabul City Center shopping mall on Feb. 14.
Right: Outside a grocery store in Kabul on Feb. 16.
Top row (left to right): U.S. Marines and Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers leave Combat Outpost 7171 on Oct. 27, 2010.; Marines of the 8th Battalion, Weapons Company, start a security patrol on Oct. 28, 2010; a construction site between Kandahar and the city's airport on Feb. 24; U.S. Marines leave the battlefield during a military operation near Doghaka village in Musa Qala district on Nov. 7, 2010.
Bottom row (left to right): U.S. Marines during a military operation on Nov. 7, 2010; a billboard on the highway between Kandahar and its airport on Feb. 24; U.S. Marines walk back to their base after a shura, a tribal meeting with elders from the nearby village, on Oct. 27, 2010; Afghan men in the back of a taxi in Kandahar on Feb. 24.
Left: Refugee children peep inside a makeshift house at the Charahi Qambar refugee camp on Feb. 27.
Right: Daniel Gretebeck, 21, from South Lyon, Michigan, rests on his cot at Forward Operating Base Minden, Helmand province, on Oct. 31, 2010.
Left: Afghan men hold back a dog during the weekly dogfight on the outskirts of Kabul on Feb. 18.
Right: Scenes from the weekly dogfight in Kabul.
Left: A fighting dog tied to a wrecked car on Feb. 18.
Right: An Afghan man and a child watch a heavily armored military convoy pass by in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province on Oct. 31, 2010.
Left: A Navy corpsman lays on a stretcher as he reads a magazine at Combat Outpost 7171 on Oct. 30, 2010.
Right (clockwise from top left): a shower tent at Musa Qala District Center, Helmand province, on Nov. 9, 2010; a makeshift toilet at a military outpost in Sirghazi, Helmand province, on Nov. 9, 2010; Marines burn human fecal matter next to makeshift toilets at Musa Qala District Center on Oct. 24, 2010; a makeshift toilet at Patrol Base Talibjan, Helmand province, on Nov. 5, 2010.
Left: Children collect stones outside the Charahi Qambar refugee camp on Feb. 27.
Right: A veiled woman rides a rickshaw in Kandahar on Feb. 20.
Left: Kandahar police chief Khan Mohammed Mujahid in his office at the city's Police Headquarters on Feb. 22.
Right: A security guard naps in front of a destroyed building, once a wedding hall, in Kandahar on Feb. 23.
Left: A boy walks past a pile of scrapped cars near a holy shrine in Kabul on Feb. 16.
Right: A group of men and children take a detour through a construction site on Feb. 14.
Left: An Afghan man is searched before a meeting between Marines and villagers from Kunder on Oct. 27, 2010.
Right: Marines watch a burning trash pit at Combat Outpost 7171 on Oct. 27, 2010.
Left: An elder from the village of Ahmed Khwazi in Helmand province on Nov. 4, 2010.
Right: A policeman directs traffic near a holy shrine in Kabul on Feb. 16, a public holiday commemorating the birth of the Prophet Mohammed.
A selection of tattooed Marines.
Left: Squad leader Cpl. Michael Perry briefs Marines at Patrol Base Talibjan before a military operation on Nov. 5, 2010.
Right: First Lt. Robert Rain, 26, from Dallas, Texas, speaks with villagers from Kunder on Oct. 27, 2010.
Left: Lance Cpl. Domingo Espinal, a 20-year-old from Hoschton, Georgia, at Patrol Base Talibjan on Nov. 4, 2010.
Right: Afghan villagers watch a Marines patrol pass by in the village of Kunder on Oct. 29, 2010.
Left: An Afghan National Army soldier covers his face with a plastic bag in a dust storm at Combat Outpost 7171 on Oct. 28, 2010.
Right: Afghan villagers from Kunder on Oct. 29, 2010.
Left: Afghan men from Kunder head home on Oct. 27, 2010, after a meeting with U.S. Marines.
Right: Cpl. Michael Perry after returning from a firefight near Doghaka village in Musa Qala district on Nov. 7, 2010.
Photographer Balazs Gardi at Combat Outpost 7171 on Oct. 31, 2010.
Gardi, originally from Hungary, studied journalism and photography in Budapest and at the University of Wales, Cardiff.
Gardi's work has been honored with the Prix Bayeux War Correspondents Award, the PX3 Photographer of the Year Award, three first-prize World Press Photo awards, a PDN Photography Prize, and the Global Vision Award from Pictures of the Year International.