A while ago I really thought that USA is a paradise for media and all US organisations, specially the US troops, let the information passed on freely (I mean 100 percent free) to their people and to the world people…
When I arrived in Marjah, I asked a Public Affairs Officer (PAO) personnel many times, that if there was any operation taking place, I would like to cover it and for sure when I am ready to cover any operation, I accept all the possible risks too.
It was an operation in the wee hours of Monday, 23 May in Shinghazak area south of Marjah district in Helmand province. I asked the platoon leader to send me to any operation, but he did not inform me at all!
I should mention here that according to the situation, it may be difficult for them to take a journalist or they may not have place for me during the night ride into the Taliban areas. Anyway, I was not in the operation and in the morning I woke up by the noise of the Marine helicopters. I took my camera and rushed to the airfield which is attached to the camp, where am I staying.
The few helicopters landed and US Marines from 3rd Battalion 9th Marines, Kilo company, took out 12 detainees from those gray, big and a bit scary helicopters. Their hands were tied and eyes blindfolded with armed American marines assisting them to walk. Marines made them sit on the ground and face towards the wall. I started doing my job, taking photographs, and no one bothered me. As a result I took a lot of pictures. Some of the Marines smiled at me and as usual said: “Whats up man?” I realised that they are happy with the results of their raid.
I was watching a detainee, who was not comfortable and moved his body a lot. He sometimes tried to move the scarf which was on his eyes and at other times lied down on the ground. I remember seeing before some drug addicts who acted like him when they did not receive heroin and I thought he is also an addict for sure.
Marines took him to a room and brought some machine to check his finger prints. Because of the secretive nature of their device I was not allowed to take pictures and I accepted that. The finger prints of the man matched exactly with the one in the machine archive and he was identified as a Taliban fighter, according to US Marines documents.
A police officer and an Afghan government official were present on the spot and watched the whole process. The elderly man from the government believed that most of the 12 detainees were not Taliban fighters. The Marines platoon leader who is a young man and smiles most of the time, told me that they will be sent to Camp Leatherneck for further investigations more and if it is confirmed that they are Taliban fighters, they will be handed over to Afghan officials. But if they are innocent, they will be freed.
I remember how many times Karzai’s government freed the Taliban insurgents after keeping them jailed for a while or lets them easily escape from the jail as happened in Kandahar jail couple of weeks ago. They will return to their group, keep killing people and this story will go on and on. The US troops will again spend money and the lives of young men to arrest them and this game will be on forever!!
I posted my photos so if you want to see more about what I saw you can go to: www.imageforum.afp.com and search my name or search Helmand.
In the end, I hope to get embedded in an operation and write the real story of what I saw during it, only if I’m allowed to go with them.
All other photographers and journalists from Afghanistan have been boycotting embeds with the US and NATO troops as they believe they don’t get equal access like a western journalist, but I do embeds to know more and have more experience with the US troops and whenever I find an opportunity, I will talk to their media as well.
Massoud Hossaini is a 29-year-old photo journalist from Afghanistan who has been covering the war in Afghanistan since the last several years. He frequently embeds with the coalition forces in Afghanistan to find out the other side of the story. His stories can be read on http://massoudhossaini.blogspot.com. Diary written by Massoud Hossaini; Edited & Published by Moign Khawaja.