Kabul, Afghanistan's capital city, sits in a valley in the Hindu Kush Mountains. Its metro area covers 164 square miles, and its infrastructure -- from roads to electricity to water services -- has struggled to keep pace with the city's rising population, which has grown from half a million (at the time of the American occupation in 2001) to between 3 and 4 million today. The withdrawal of U.S. troops and the reduction of foreign aid have led both Afghans and the international community to question the readiness of Kabul's security forces to protect the city. Since the first round of elections in April 2014, separate attacks -- against a local NGO, a luxury hotel catering to foreigners, a bus of Afghan National Army soldiers, and the convoy of presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah -- have revealed the Taliban's ability to coordinate strikes in and around the capital. The Kabul police, however, insist that they have prevented many more attacks than are reported to the public.
In late June, writer and photographer Deni Béchard accompanied U.S. Army advisor Lieutenant Colonel Ted Pelzel on a rare tour of the Kabul police surveillance center, including a close look at the very systems they use to prevent attacks in the capital city. The multi-million dollar surveillance system, which has been operational for roughly four and a half years, provides a dramatically different view of the Kabul police (who have been criticized for incompetence and corruption) at work. The system has been expanding and, over the past three years, it has grown to more than 60 screens that allow the KSS (Kabul Security System) Team, a group of specially trained Afghan police officers, to monitor 108 high resolution camera feeds around the city 24 hours a day. Most of the cameras are positioned on rooftops, and one even sits on a blimp that floats above the city.
Above, police officers search through footage from these camera feeds, closely examining the streets, as they look to see where the demonstrators are gathering.