Time magazine photographer Robert Nickelsberg has been covering war-ravaged Afghanistan for the last 25 years. He has seen up close Soviet troops leaving Afghanistan in the late ’80s, the rise of the Taliban and the American invasion. Now, he is all set to record its withdrawal, with the nation again on the cusp of upheaval—a new presidential election is due in April under the dire threat of a resurgent Taliban. Till he moved to New York in 2000, Nickelsberg was based in New Delhi for 12 years, when he documented conflict in Kashmir, Iraq and Sri Lanka. He first visited Afghanistan on a one-day visa in January 1988 to cover the funeral of Pashtoon leader Abdul Gaffar Khan in Jalalabad. During the funeral, he encountered mayhem: 17 people were killed in a blast. Since then, he has visited the country over 50 times, every time unsure if he will return alive.
His new book, Afghanistan: A Distant War, is an anthology of photographs focusing on the consequences of Afghanistan’s violent troubles—of the brutality of foreign occupation, internal strife, political uncertainty—against a backdrop of searing natural beauty. How does life go on in a war-torn country; how do children, women, ordinary people reconcile to the presence of foreign armies; how do war-weary soldiers carry on despite no sign of its end in sight.... Nickesberg’s camera captures it all, the anguish, the shock and a feeble hope.