Afghanistan: Nuristan, in Pictures

We've had enough doom and gloom in Afghanistan for a while, yes? So here's a pretty picture of Aranas village in Waygal district of Nuristan.

This image comes courtesy Panoramino user JoelPac, who happens to have a lot of really beautiful photographs of Kunar and Nuristan.

Unfortunately, this being Afghanistan, it is impossible to mention an area in Afghanistan (especially, it seems, in Nuristan) without mentioning some recent tragedy. And there in Aranas, they have a particularly nasty one that was handed down by U.S. Apache attack helicopters. As RAWA retells it, in their inimitable fashion:

They were killed or wounded on Friday, July 4, 2008, on a road near Aranas village on the Waygal River in the district of Waigal (Waygal), Nuristan Province. The Province’s Governor himself, Tamim Nuristani, told various media including the AFP that 16 civilians were killed in an air strike as they were leaving an area after being told by security forces a military operation was about to occur. District governor Zia-ul-Rehman said that 22 civilians had died in the strike.

As usual, the US/NATO militaries proclaimed that the dead were “militants.” An issued statement announced that “militants had fired on the U.S. base in Bella”, then “the insurgents…entered two vehicles and began traveling away from the firing position. Ground forces called coalition (sic) attack helicopters for support….which then destroyed the two vehicles killing more than a dozen militants.” U.S. First Lt. Nathan Perry said, “These were combatants. These were people firing on us. We have no reports of noncombatant injuries.”

Where's Bella? It's just north of Aranas along the Waygal River. Panoramino user FoxTrotCharlie (who also has an incredible collection of photos) took a picture of it in 2006, when the American FOBs in Nuristan were brand new.

All of this matters because Bella and Aranas were intimately involved in the July 16, 2008 assault on the U.S. firebase at Want, in southern Waygal (but still in Nuristan!). David Tate, the “Battle Field Tourist,” has a picture of that base:

That event was, of course, something of a watershed: it was not only the deadliest insurgent attack on a U.S. base up to that point (I think the subsequent two-day assault on Salerno might have been bigger), it forced the withdrawal of the U.S. from the base—effective ceding the entire district to the insurgency. We've discussed the issues surrounding this—the attack itself, and, more worrying, the possibility that the bombing at Aranas may have played a role in the attack—but it isn't constructive to rehash those arguments.

Rather, I just wanted to take a big step back and ponder: Nuristan is, to me at least, unquestionably one of the most beautiful and alluring places on the planet. It is also one of the deadliest for a short chubby white guy (i.e. me) to go visit. The juxtaposition between the two—stunning, almost unspoiled mountain wilderness and grinding insurgency—just leaves me quiet every once in a while.

Ghosts of Alexander on Nuristan here and here.

1 comment

  • Aziz K. Budri

    Thank you so much for the beautiful pictures of Nuristan. I had visited the place several times when there was peace and have some wonderful stories about it.

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