Voices from 13 years in Afghanistan unveiled at Imperial War Museum exhibition
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As British combat forces finally leave Afghanistan, the Imperial War Museum (IWM) has launched a powerful exhibition commemorating the last 13 years of British presence in the country. War Story: Afghanistan, housed in a small room at the IWM, near Waterloo, has been put together to mark the end of the near decade and a half that British troops have been stationed in the country. The exhibition is part of the Imperial War Museum’s wider War Story project, which began in 2009 to highlight the real voices of soldiers in conflict zones. Since the project began, over 1,800 soldiers and family members have registered to share their stories with the museum. It is a project that goes to the heart of the Imperial War Museum’s overall aim, which has remained the same since it was established almost 100 years ago – “to collect and record stories of war”, according to Director-General Diane Lees. War Story: Afghanistan shows portraits of soldiers at work inside Camp Bastian, contrasted with the snowy mountains of Kabul and Afghan civilians attempting to make a living, selling wares on the streets. Afghanistan is a country that, in the firm hold of the Taliban in 2001, had little or no girls attending school – 13 years on, the number of girls being given an education in the country is close to two million. Although all combat troops have now left, some soldiers will remain – the process of handing over control to the Afghan forces and attempting to ensure stability is a long road, and not one that is guaranteed, even after more than a decade. Deputy Commanding General Brigadier Rob Thomson, stationed in the southwest of the country, is one of those who has lent their voice to the project. He is positive about the future of Afghanistan: “I think we can leave here confident that we’ve made a real difference in building the Afghan National Security Forces, which I hope and pray gives enough space for the politics to then be able to do its work.” The Imperial War Museum has sent photographers to Afghanistan a number of times in recent years, and their work, alongside numerous video interviews with NGO and UK government workers on site, makes up the basis of the exhibition. Given unprecedented access by the Ministry of Defence, this is the first time since the First World War that IWM teams have visited an active theatre of conflict. Below is some of their work, all of which is on display at the museum. View of a street in Nad Ali, Helmand, as seen from a military base in the town, showing the quiet bustle of local businesses during an early evening in June. ©IWM
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