Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan produces 80% of the world’s opium. For a while, after the Taliban were presumed defeated, opium production fell as the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) composed of coalition armies took control of Helmand, one of 34 provinces in Afghanistan.
I can only assume that as the Taliban are on the rise as quickly as the Afghan National Army is on the run, opium production will soon reach unprecedented levels.
Helmand was the home of the British Army’s operations in Afghanistan, and at its height, Camp Bastion, the UK military HQ had a population of 30,000 (equivalent to the town of Aldershot), and the busiest UK operated airport.
The British Army suffered the vast majority of its casualties in Helmand, in battles to retake towns such as Sangin and Musa Qala – towns which are ostensibly now back in the control of the Taliban, just two years after the British left. Therein lies the circle of a tragedy that will never be squared.
I spent three weeks there in 2011, based out of Bastion, shuttling in helicopters to patrol bases and check points. I stayed with British troops, and those from Estonia. The pictures presented here were taken then – at a moment when it was clear despite propoganda and denial, that Helmand would again fall once the coalition had departed.
At Camp Bastion, the Memorial Wall had the names of all who perished inscribed on brass plates - and an inscription that read:
“When you go home tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow we gave our today”.