Nuristan, in Pictures

by Joshua Foust on 10/22/2008 · 4 comments

We’ve had enough doom and gloom 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.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Toaf October 23, 2008 at 12:39 am

Post like this one are the reason I read Registan. Thanks.

Joshua Simeon Narins October 24, 2008 at 7:26 pm

I’ve been to the region, and I can say that although there is a certain majesty and beauty to all this, getting around is a PITA the likes of which almost no Americans understand.

I met a group of people living in a “saddle” of ?three? mountains. They mined silver close to the surface and made jewelry. They lived in what I can best describe as rock igloos. They had no access to plumbing, electricity, and it was at least 1.5 miles of mountain path to the nearest village (which, if I recall correctly, also lacked an electric grid).

A nice place to visit, but I don’t want my distant cousins living there.

Joshua Foust October 27, 2008 at 9:43 am

PITA? Like the bread? Or pain in the ass? I hate feeling stupid enough to think it could be either. Also, I don’t deny that it is an enormous pain to get around. But I also happen to like those kinds of places—way back in the depths of the Rocky Mountains, for example, in some of the most annoying places to get to, I found the most incredible places. I know it’s all remote and terrible from a living standards perspective… but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

abdul rahman nuristani October 31, 2008 at 3:57 am

that is really nice to see nuristan pic with really good pose that have been tooken . thanks who ever u r i realy admired with ever u have did

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