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  Field Notes From
On bin Laden's Trail

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From Photographer


On bin Laden's Trail On Assignment

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From Author

Tim McGirk

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Kamaan Kamaan (top) and Hahim Hashim


On bin Laden's Trail On Assignment Photographer On bin Laden's Trail On Assignment Photographer
On bin Laden's Trail

Field Notes From Photographer

Best Worst Quirkiest
    Afghans know the Taliban are bad and that what they were doing was against their country. And they know that al Qaeda was using Afghanistan to create a wave of terror all over the world. So Afghans feel thankful to the Americans for putting down the Taliban because they knew they wouldn't have been able to do it alone. The Taliban and al Qaeda were such a strong element that it was impossible for Afghans to resist them; they were losing the country to them. So now the people of Afghanistan feel freedom. That is what they think Americans brought for them. Freedom.

    The U.S. military press officers kept me and other journalists waiting for ages. They knew I was running out of time, asking, "When is your deadline?" "The day after tomorrow," I'd answer, and they would respond, "Oh, too bad. I could have something ready for you in four days."
    They all said, "Oh, we love National Geographic. We grew up on National Geographic." But they still didn't cooperate with me. If I didn't have 20 years of experience working in Afghanistan and didn't know how to deal with the war situation, I wouldn't have gotten a single picture through all this. I would have been waiting for months. At one point, we actually got shot at. But it was nothing compared with the morale shooting I got from the press officers.

    Through U.S. efforts to win Afghan hearts and minds, the troops receive containers full of lollipops and toy soap bubbles to give to the Afghan kids. Now imagine the children in the countryside, who have never seen anything like this.
    One day I accompanied the soldiers on patrol, and they took a handful of lollipops with them. When the kids came, the soldiers threw the lollipops from the car. The children's first reaction was "Bomb! Bomb!" and they started running away, thinking the lollipops were grenades or cluster bombs. 
    Then we arrived in the village and started giving the kids all the candy. The soldiers all had a lollipop in their mouths, showing the kids what to do. But when the children tried the candy, they didn't like it. It tasted too different from the very natural food they know. So they pulled out the sticks and used the round lollipop balls to play marbles. Soon their hands, faces, and clothes were stained and sticky from the candy. As for the bubbles, they thought the liquid was shampoo and soap to wash themselves.


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