Editor's note: This film is no longer available for online viewing. 

When NATO troops withdrew from Afghanistan, the Afghan National Army took over control of Helmand Province, an extremely dangerous region where attacks by Taliban fighters are the order of the day.

Security, much less peace, seems to be unattainable; it is even difficult to find a common language in a country where everyone mistrusts each other.

The directors of this film accompanied an Afghan army company during a year of frontline duty in Helmand. The soldiers are paid irregularly, there are not enough supplies, and their equipment is substandard. They cannot fight a war with the equipment left behind by the ISAF.

In Afghanistan's Own Battle, fresh Afghan recruits talk about their doubts, their hopes and their dreams. Dramatic images show that there is an epic dimension to the soldiers' daily lives, and the private moments and bloody battles feel like a metaphor for the fate of this war-torn country.

At the same time the film reveals the absurd side of the conflict from the point of view of these Afghan soldiers, in a country whose government is at the mercy of an enemy that even NATO troops did not succeed in defeating in almost 13 years of confrontation and conflict.


By Saeed Taji Farouky

The war in Afghanistan is one of this generation's defining events, yet since the beginning, the vast majority of Western coverage of the conflict has been from the perspective of the foreign soldiers. Undoubtedly, these are important stories. But they are not the only story, and they are missing something crucial: the perspective of the Afghans themselves.

When Afghans do appear in mainstream media, it is often as little more than casualties, extras or backdrops. They have often been portrayed as lazy, corrupt, untrustworthy and a threat to Western troops who partnered with them.

The Afghan National Army is presented as the US and NATO's exit strategy from the war, but we know almost nothing about this army or the people in it. It was the lack of this perspective in the mainstream media that inspired us to make this film.

Afghan soldiers have in the past complained of old weapons and substandard equipment [Al Jazeera]

At the end of 2014, NATO's combat mission officially ended and the vast majority of foreign troops pulled out of Afghanistan. But the war is far from over. The Afghan army has now inherited a war that promises to be much longer and more difficult than that of NATO.

Afghanistan's Own Battle was filmed with one unit of the Afghan National Army over the course of their first year of fighting without the support of NATO troops, and it offers a rare perspective on what the next stage of the war will look like with Afghan forces now in charge of their country's own security.

Are they ready? Are they afraid? How do they feel about the US and NATO troops who, after invading their country, trained them and supported them for 14 years?

The film is told through the voices and experiences of the Afghans themselves, with no Western soldier in sight, giving the Afghans an opportunity to tell their own stories. It is a subtle, intimate and humanist look at a subject that is extensively covered in the media, but little understood.

It is the first film to be granted a full, unrestricted, 18-month-long embed with the Afghan army, and we hope it will contribute to the debate about the future of Afghanistan by humanising the Afghan soldiers, showing the true consequences of the US-led invasion and exploring the nuances of the conflict and the country. We hope the film will keep the Afghan war firmly on the media agenda by presenting the stories of the people who will live with the war long after NATO is gone.

The battles in Helmand reflect the successes and failures of a decade of fighting [Al Jazeera]

Source: Al Jazeera