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Photo: Writer-Photographer Robert Young Pelton
Writer-Photographer Robert Young Pelton
Listen to an excerpt
from Robert Young Pelton's recent interview with Montreal's CJAD 800.
Afghanistan's Shadowlands
Robert Young Pelton's photographs of Afghanistan reveal the danger facing coalition forces and the hopes of a battered nation.

Two years ago, while researching the March 2002 feature "The Legend of Heavy D and the Boys," Robert Young Pelton found the heart of the war in Afghanistan. Traveling alongside a group of Green Berets and their host, Northern Alliance General Abdul Rashid Dostum, Pelton was in Qala Jangi when the famous prisoner uprising occurred, was the first to interview John Walker Lindh after his capture, and was on scene when CIA paramilitary Johnny "Mike" Spann became the war's first casualty. The story that he chose to focus on though, was the unlikely bond shared by an Afghan general (Heavy D) and a group of American Green Berets (the boys)—a bond that helped turn the tide of the war in northern Afghanistan. In December of last year, Pelton returned to the war-weary nation, this time venturing into the shadowy Pashtun tribal areas near Pakistan, a suspected safe haven for Osama bin Laden.

"Two years is a long time, especially in this part of the world, and I was anxious to see how Afghanistan's hosts were getting along with their American guests," Pelton writes in the April feature "Into the Land of Bin Laden." To assess the relationship firsthand, Pelton enlisted the help of a covert American operative and a Pashtun elder, bringing them together for a meeting deep in Taliban-friendly territory. The results, he writes in the April issue, were less than encouraging.

Here, Pelton serves as guide on a visual tour through the Pashtun tribal areas, imparting a unique perspective on the challenges facing a struggling nation and the obstacles confronting the international forces operating deep within Afghanistan's shadowlands.

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April 2004

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