Photo Essay

Bringing Down the House that Bush Built

What dismantling 10 years of war in Afghanistan looks like.

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Soldiers from the Wisconsin National Guard 829th Engineer Co. work to dismantle an aviation maintenance tent on the ground of a near-closed Camp Pratt. All necessary elements of Pratt are being moved to Camp Marmal, which will be an enduring base in Northern Afghanistan. Image by Meghan Dhaliwal / The Pulitzer Center

In June 2011, there were more than 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. By Jan. 1, 2015, fewer than 10,000 will remain.

 

As the United States’ longest war winds down, military bases and installations across Afghanistan are rapidly shuttering. Buildings must be deconstructed, supplies must be donated or destroyed, and equipment must be packaged and shipped. Photojournalist Meghan Dhaliwal followed the men and women of three military installations as they carried out this massive and taxing logistical operation. “It took years to build the American presence in Afghanistan,” Meg Jones writes in an Oct. 21 dispatch for Foreign Policy. “It will take months to break it down.”

 

Above, dismantling an aviation maintenance tent on the grounds of Camp Pratt.

Meghan Dhaliwal/The Pulitzer Center

As most bases shrink, Forward Operating Base Fenty in Jalalabad is expanding. Here, Afghans (from left) Shasta Bazar, Mir Akbar, Tariq, and Kheyal Mohammed work with members of the Wisconsin National Guard 829th Engineer Co. to prepare a ditch for electrical wiring.

Meghan Dhaliwal/The Pulitzer Center

Pfc. Ashley Grassman (left) and Specialist Joel Eder ride out to the job site at Camp Pratt.

Meghan Dhaliwal/The Pulitzer Center

 

At Camp Pratt, large structures are carefully broken down and packed into shipping containers.

By the end of 2014, the Department of Defense will have spent an estimated $7 billion to package and ship about 750,000 pieces of equipment valued at $36 billion in Afghanistan.

Meghan Dhaliwal/The Pulitzer Center

At Jalalabad’s Forward Operating Base Fenty, 1Lt. Michelle Lachat works against a bunker as members of the Wisconsin National Guard 829th Engineer Co. dig a ditch for electrical wiring nearby.

Meghan Dhaliwal/The Pulitzer Center

A soldier looks out at the mountains from an aviation maintenance tent slated for deconstruction at Camp Pratt, in northern Afghanistan.

Meghan Dhaliwal/The Pulitzer Center

Laying electrical wiring in a ditch at Forward Operating Base Fenty.

Meghan Dhaliwal/The Pulitzer Center

 

A soldier from the Wisconsin National Guard 829th Engineer Co. rests in a sliver of shade at an aviation maintenance tent under deconstruction. Soldiers alternate between work and rest in 30-minute shifts to avoid heat stroke and dehydration.

Meghan Dhaliwal/The Pulitzer Center

Dismantling an aviation maintenance tent at Camp Pratt.

Meghan Dhaliwal/The Pulitzer Center

  

Pfc. Jesse Bortle at a tae kwon do class at Camp Marmal. The drawdown has brought American troops formerly at Camp Pratt to Camp Marmal, which will be an enduring base in northern Afghanistan.

Meghan Dhaliwal/The Pulitzer Center

 

The Camp Marmal USO. As bases shut down, amenities like post offices, USOs, gyms, and dining facilities are closing their doors.

Meghan Dhaliwal/The Pulitzer Center

Soldiers play basketball in the evening. The daytime heat, which can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, offers inhospitable conditions for afternoon games.

Meghan Dhaliwal/The Pulitzer Center

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