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With the Afghan Army
Herat
By laura.lesevre
07 Oct 2014

Fausto Biloslavo follows the soldiers of the Afghan Army during an operation against the Taliban who are surrounding all the areas close to Herat. He travels with the soldiers through the wild Afghan landscape and listens to the stories of the soldiers who are paid 200 euros for risking their lives against the Taliban. And as soon as the Nato mandate will end by the end of 2014, it would get even worse for the Afghan people.

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Text and Photos by: Fausto Biloslavo

"The policemen were ambushed. One agent was killed instantly, but the other five were alive, although injured," says the soldier Maitullah Wafa, back from a violent battle.

After placing the last belt of ammunitions, the young Afghan adds, "The Taliban have reached them while they were fizzling on the ground. They were shot to death one by one with a Kalashnikov.”

The forgotten war in Afghanistan continues with no mercy, but NATO troops are ready to leave the country by the end of 2014.

Now the army of Kabul has to repel the assault of the Taliban by itself, with no help from foreign armies. Since January 2014 there have been 422 attacks in western Afghanistan, especially booby trap attacks. Throughout the country, every month the Afghan army loses from 200 to 400 men.

The reconnaissance operation starts in the territory of Herat, from the base of the 207th Corps at Camp Zafar - which means"victory". At five in the morning, before dawn, the officials pray toward Mecca and they are illuminated by the lights of the armored jeeps left in dowry by the Americans.

The column of soldiers moves along a sandy track and goes through a valley surrounded by barren mountains where there are houses made from mud and straw. In addition to the tanks, with no anti-mine system, the Afghans travel on uncovered vehicles. If they bump on a booby trap they would explode ending in a thousand pieces like twigs.

The mountains on the other side of the river are Taliban-infested. A week ago the Talibans attacked the army along the road that leads to the great dam of Selma. "On the armor of the tank I felt the bullets bouncing. The rockets were exploding everywhere. A few meters away, I saw a Dushman (which means enemy), who had launched a rocket bursting in three steps from us. I took the grenade launcher firing at him and I saw him fall, "says Maitullah, a young soldier, with a bit of pride.

When the column of soldiers passes through their villages, the people remain composed. Women covered by turquoise burqas look like ghosts, some children wave to the soldiers while the shepherds look after their sheep.

To prevent any suicide bombing, the soldiers check all the cars and passengers, even the turbans of the men, which could hide a detonator.

The Afghan army is made up of almost 200,000 men. The base pay of an Afghan soldier is 11,500 afghani, less than 200 euro per month: this is all they are given for risking their lives every day.

The commander of the corps army built with the help of Italians, general Taji Mohammed Jahed, is convinced that "there is no difference between Daish (the Islamic state in Arabic) and the Talibans. Both distort Islam to use it against humanity. The first one kills in the name of the caliphate while the Talibans kill in the name of their emirate. "

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Somalia: Routing Al-Shabab 08
Mogadishu
By Noe Falk Nielsen
08 Sep 2014

A Somali soldier stands in front of one of two minibuses that were hit by a suicide car bomb (VBIED) 20Km outside of Mogadishu on 9 September 2014.

12 civilians were killed and 27 wounded. Despite being weakened, Al Shabab were still able to carry out ambushes and attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs). These would often hit military targets, but would end up killing and maiming scores of civilians. Al Shabab displayed a blatant disregard for civilian casualties in their fight agains AMISOM/the government.

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Volunteers Upgrade Ukrainian Tanks, S...
Sloviansk
By Andrey Samerkhanov
07 Sep 2014

Date: September 8, 2014
Location: Sloviansk, Ukraine
Length: 3:51

When a shaped charge penetrates the armour of a vehicle, there is a massive build-up of heat that burns through the armour and threatens to kill the crew. Shaped charge protection prevents the round penetrating the vehicle armour and triggers the explosion outside the vehicle, in which case, the vehicle is likely to remain combat ready. A resident of Vinnitsa Oblast, Leonid, organized a team of volunteer welders after seeing his fellow countrymen die in conflict. He lead the team to Sloviansk where they are installing shaped charge protection onto Ukrainian combat vehicles.

Myroslav Gai from Kiev served in the National Guard of Ukraine as a volunteer and took part in the ground action in Sloviansk. After being rotated out, he organised a charity to provide aid to servicemen and refugees. Donations from people around the region have been used to buy the necessary materials for Leonid’s team of welders to manufacture and mount the shaped charge protection. Myroslav and Leonid’s objective is to equip 100 armoured vehicles with the potentially life-saving cage.

Shotlist:
A craftsman cuts the metal bars.
A craftsman takes measurements for the protective screens.
Craftsmen welding.
A craftsman demonstrates the mechanical window in the shaped charge protection.
Craftsmen assemble the shaped charge protection screen.
Craftsmen install the shaped charge protection.

SOUNDBITE 1
Myroslav, former National Guard serviceman
“The shaped charge protection screen. In simple terms – it is a metal cage encircling the armoured vehicle, which traps the charge, for example a rocket from a RPG (handheld launcher).”

“An incoming RPG charge explodes and burns out between the cage and main armour. The crew, therefore, survives.”

SOUNDBITE 2
Leonid, professional welder
“After losing some of our fellow countrymen, who burned alive because shaped charges hit their armoured vehicles, we decided to create a shaped charge protection. We did all the designing, manufacturing and testing. The live fire test revealed that the armour on the vehicle stays intact.”

SOUNDBITE 3
Myroslav, former National Guard serviceman
“The main thing is that these folks can install the protection in the field. There are not many people who would agree to go to a military base, where military action could start at any time.”

SOUNDBITE 4
Leonid, professional welder
“Every protective cage is being welded independently, after which they are all put together and bolted as a single structure. Afterwards, they are welded strongly to the armoured vehicle.”

SOUNDBITE 5
Myroslav, former National Guard serviceman
“Our target is to fix the protection to as many armoured vehicles as possible, since the Ukrainian army has only a limited quantity of such vehicles and those get destroyed in combat, along with the people in them.”

SOUNDBITE 6
Leonid, professional welder
“In a very short period of time we installed the protection onto seven armoured vehicles. At the same time, we install protective screens and repair the vehicles damaged in action.”

SOUNDBITE 7
Myroslav, former National Guard serviceman
“We have managed to collect significant amounts of money through donations. Only the materials used in manufacturing the protection for one vehicle is 24,000 UAH. Leonid thanks God and will take money only to reimburse the materials. The real costs are paying craftsmen’s hours and transportation, which we can’t afford. Therefore, their assistance is appreciated.”

SOUNDBITE 8
Leonid, professional welder
“I receive many text messages from the army unit for which we installed the protection screens. As a rule, I receive them at night. In the morning, my phone is bursting with the phone calls: ‘Thank you so much, uncle Lyonya. We got entrapped and shelled, but all are alive.’ Such gratitude is the most valuable thing I ever encountered in my life.”

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The Talisman
Krasny Partizan
By Andrey Samerkhanov
07 Sep 2014

Date: September 7, 2014
Location: Krasny Partizan near Horlivka, Ukraine
Length: 2:06
Ukrainian volunteers supply National Guards and the Ukrainian Army with all necessary equipment – they collect money for medical supplies, kevlar helmets, body armors, etc.. The equipment is then delivered to the troops on the front line.
Ukrainian soldiers also receive support letters from children from all over the country.
Each envelope also contains a talisman; the Swallow in the colors of the national flag of Ukraine.

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Somalia: Routing Al-Shabab
Mogadishu
By Noe Falk Nielsen
31 Aug 2014

2011-2014

These photos profile the efforts over the past years of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) to route Al-Shabab from its strongholds in Somalia.
Beginning with a large offensive in 2011, aimed at ending Al-Shabab rule in Somalia, Mogadishu was quickly retaken. Since then, AMISOM forces were able to steadily push Al-Shabab militants out of the outlying areas under their control.
In the summer and fall of 2014, AMISOM launched Operation Indian Ocean, which was another offensive aimed at eradicating pockets of Al-Shabab fighters still stationed in the Somali countryside. 

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Somalia: Routing Al-Shabab 07
Mogadishu
By Noe Falk Nielsen
31 Aug 2014

Soldiers from UPDF 62 battalion sit in a Casspir Armoured Personnel Carrier on the way to join in the attack on KurtunWaraay on 31 August 2014. Somalia is big and mobility is key to AMISOM's ability to reclaim Al Shabaab controlled territory. Offensives thus involved a variety of armored personnel carriers to allow for movement of troops.

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Somalia: Routing Al-Shabab 11
Beled Amin
By Noe Falk Nielsen
29 Aug 2014

Ugandan AMISOM soldier guarding the outer perimeter at the forward operating base in Beled Amin during Operation Indian Ocean on 29 August 2014.

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Somalia: Routing Al-Shabab 06
Mogadishu
By Noe Falk Nielsen
29 Aug 2014

As Al Shabaab lost their footholds around Mogadishu, and forces from other countries joined AMISOM, Somalia was carved up in sectors, each under control of an AMISOM contingent. Here a Ugandan Army colonel stands in front of his tank battalion in preparation for Operation Indian Ocean to reclaim the cities of Bulo Marer, Kurtunwaraay and eventually Barawe, in Lower Shabelle. 29 August 2014.

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frontline in Tuz Khurmatu, Iraq
tuzkhurmatu, iraq
By Arianna Pagani
28 Aug 2014

28 August 2014, Tuz Khurmatu distance about 75 km south of Kirkuk. The Kurdish army launches a mortar to the city occupied by the militants of the Islamic State. The soldiers who were outside the base to help the peshmerga who had been sent on ahead, come back at the end of the fight. No deaths and no injuries.

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frontline in Tuz Khurmatu, Iraq
tuzkhurmatu, iraq
By Arianna Pagani
28 Aug 2014

28 August 2014, Tuz Khurmatu distance about 75 km south of Kirkuk. The Kurdish army launches a mortar to the city occupied by the militants of the Islamic State. The soldiers who were outside the base to help the peshmerga who had been sent on ahead, come back at the end of the fight. No deaths and no injuries.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

Between cohabitation and turns the military are able to find moments of fun. Some soldiers playing dominoes in tents.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

Every soldier doing his job harder. Many of them come from cities that have been invaded by the army of Islamic state. They perceive a salary and their work shifts are approximately 10 days.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

The peshmerga now have become very important for Kurdistan. For following decades, have had a bad reputation as warriors unconquered of the mountains.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

The soldiers during the breaks have to keep their weapons clean.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

The kitchen where soldiers take turns for preparing dinner for the people in the frontline.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

The young peshmerga fighters have no battle experience. Many of the older pesh merga moved on, starting businesses and embracing the changing face of Kurdistan.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

When the light begins to decline many military take the time to call their families at home. A moment of intimacy in a military base full of men is not easy to find.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

A Kurdish peshmerga prepares a cup of tea before starting his turn in the frontline against IS.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

An officer of the frontline in a moment of pause. That day they discussed the situation about weapons sponsor by the European Union.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

In the bases of the mountains there are instance Peshmerga professionals including many young people.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

There is no exact number of peshmerga fighters. Both youth and adults are lined up against a single enemy. they took up arms under one banner of a united Kurdistan.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

With the coming of night, the air becomes heavier on the frontline. With the darkness the Islamic Army has more ease in advancing position or try to attack the Kurdish army.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

A moment of pause before the exchange with another soldier to control the aera under the frontline. A guy calls his family.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

Peshmerga fighters on the front line against militants of IS. The base is close to Bashiqa village and Mosul. During the nights there are different movements of the Sunni guerrillas.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

In the frontline of the mountain Bashiqa, two young Kurdish military are given the change of position. The control over the villages occupied by ISIS is constant.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

Some young soldiers are shuttling between major base and a control tower. They bring food for dinner.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

New men come into the frontline of the mountain Bashiqa. Probably ready to join in the Kurdish military. What remains to be seen is how long the pesh merga will be able to rely on the support of outsiders.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

The mountain of Bashiqa is under the control of the Peshmerga. Is also the official name of the armed forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government in the semiautonomous Iraqi Kurdistan. After the continuous advance of the Islamic state Kurds maintained their positions of control.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

Kurdish Peshmerga has strengthened its presence in Nineveh province’s. This area is currently disputed between Sunnis members of the Islamic state and the forces of both Kurdish and Iraqi.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

Since Aug. 2, IS militants made forays into the peshmerga-controlled territories of the Ninevah plains. They moving into the towns of Hamdaiya, Telkayf, Bartalla and Bashiqa on the north and east of Mosul.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

This guy on the frontline shows off his tattoo which is the symbol of P.U.K an Iraqi-Kurdish political party in Iraqi Kurdistan and YPG.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

On the mountain of Bashiqa. Inside the base camp during the days the soldiers held only controlled the situation. While some boys are resting others prepare for nightfall.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

Some soldiers sitting on the rocks looking over the town of Bashiqa. Lying just 18 kilometers from Mosul with two roads linking it to Iraq's most volatile city, Bashiqa and nearby villages in Nineveh provinces. They occupied the heart of Iraq's minority communities for centuries.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

The government of Kurdistan has asked for help to other states to defeat the advance of the Islamic state. During the month of August some countries, among them Italy, have agreed to send weapons to the Kurds.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

Many soldiers who are serving on the mountain of Bashiqa are very young. The average age is between 17 and 25 years.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

Some moments of rest during the day. Below it is the city of Bashiqa and Mosul, now under control of IS.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

T he European Union has started to give the Kurds shipments of ammunition, machine guns and mortars.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

After recovering some land that had been invaded by ISIS. The Peshmerga have accepted and agreed with the help arrived from America with the bombing on the enemy positions.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

After Iraqi forces have failed abandoning their position and shipments in Iraq, the stability has been reset with the military Kurds. They have given them greater power and control.

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Frontline Bashiqa
Bashiqah, Governatorato di Ninawa, Iraq
By Arianna Pagani
26 Aug 2014

when the light begins to decline many military take the time to call their families at home. A moment of intimacy in a military base full of men is not easy to find.