‘The Mountains Of Majeed’ is a reflection on the end of ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ in Afghanistan through photography, found imagery and Taliban poetry. Edmund Clark looks at the experience of the vast majority of military personnel and contractors who have serviced Enduring Freedom without ever engaging the enemy. He distils their war down to a concise series of photographs of the two views they have of Afghanistan: what they see of the country over the walls or through the wire of their bases, and what they see of representations within these enclaves that they never leave.
At Bagram Airfield, the biggest American base in Afghanistan and home to 40,000, the view outside is dominated by the mountains of the Hindu Kush. Embedded with the U.S. military, Clark’s photographs show a dystopian relationship between the looming presence of the mountains around Bagram and the man-made landscape within the walls. Inside he found mountains appropriated for murals in conference rooms and propaganda on walls.
On the wall of a dining facility a series of paintings by an artist called Majeed take the viewer to a different Afghanistan of lush mountain passes. Clark says: ‘Their location on the wall of a dining facility on America’s main base is significant. How many tens of thousands of pairs of western eyes have registered the pastoral peace of these mountainscapes? Has anyone considered what they say of the country they are playing a part in occupying?’
Wars of resistance are characterised by technologically-advanced powers in fortified enclaves fighting far less sophisticated but fluid insurgents hidden in the landscape, sapping the occupiers’ resources and will.
‘The Mountains of Majeed’ vividly illustrates this endgame to the war in Afghanistan. Two sides divided by concrete walls and a gulf in technology and understanding. At Bagram the local insurgents still send rudimentary rockets into the concrete and gravel of the world’s busiest military airfield. Like the mountains in which they hide they are ever present; watching beyond the walls, waiting for the end of Enduring Freedom.