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Aviation Regiment

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In the year 2011, a total of 565 NATO forces stationed in Afghanistan were killed -- down from 711 in 2010 -- marking the largest decline in annual deaths during the decade-long conflict. The large number of NATO soldiers on the ground appears to have made a difference, a fact that worries Afghans as the U.S. and others accelerate their planned pullback. This year, 23,000 U.S. soldiers are scheduled to depart the country, heading toward a full withdrawal by 2014. For now, U.S. troops appear to be focusing on intensive training of Afghan forces and preparing for the logistical challenge of shipping home some $30 billion worth of military gear. Gathered here are images of the people and places involved in this conflict over the past month, as part of an ongoing monthly series on Afghanistan. [42 photos]

Cpl. James Hernandez, a combat engineer with Alpha Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, and a native of Goodyear, Arizona, uses an electric saw to dismantle a HESCO barrier at Firebase Saenz, in Helmand province, on December 13, 2011. FB Saenz is the first of several patrol bases being demilitarized by the Marines of 9th ESB throughout the month of December. (USMC/Cpl. Bryan Nygaard)

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In this post, featuring images from the last quarter of 2011, we remember a tumultuous year of change across the globe, the capture of Khadafi, the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the passing of Apple icon Steve Jobs, fire, famine, flood and protests. A memorable year, indeed. -- Paula Nelson -- Please see part 1 and part 2 from earlier. (EDITOR'S NOTE: We will not post a Big Picture on Monday, December 26, due to the Christmas Holiday ) (51 photos total)
A defaced portrait of fugitive Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi in Tripoli on Sept. 1, 2011 as the fallen strongman vowed again not to surrender in a message broadcast on the 42nd anniversary of the coup which brought him to power. (Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images)

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The best photos of 2011 from around the globe. Warning: All images in this entry are shown in full, not screened out for graphic content. Some images contain dead bodies, graphic content and tragic events. We consider these images an important part of human history.

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Behrouz Mehri / AFP - Getty Images

Seen through a haze of fine dust kicked up by the helicopter's rotor blades, US Marines carry a wounded comrade who was hit by an Improvised Explosive Device to a medevac helicopter of U.S. Army's Task Force Lift "Dust Off", Charlie Company 1-171 Aviation Regiment in Helmand province on Nov. 2, 2011. The Marine lost his right leg from the knee in the blast.

Natalia Jimenez writes

A subtle image, but the combination of the soft hazy dust and a lonely exposed sock of a wounded soldier being carried by fellow marines makes this image feel quite vulnerable to me.

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As the war in Afghanistan passes the 10-year mark, the security outlook still looks bleak. Nevertheless, the Obama administration has just asked the Pentagon for initial recommendations for the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan in 2014 -- the first step in planning the final U.S. withdrawal. According to the Associated Press, as of yesterday, November 1, 2011, at least 1,704 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan. U.S. diplomats are now asking Afghanistan's neighbors to sign on to an ambitious plan for the future of Central Asia -- ambitiously being called the "New Silk Road" -- that would link the infrastructure of surrounding countries from Kazakhstan to India. Gathered here are images from there over the past month, part of an ongoing monthly series on Afghanistan. [41 photos]

A severely wounded US Marine hit by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) is carried by his comrades to a medevac helicopter of U.S. Army's Task Force Lift "Dust Off", Charlie Company 1-171 Aviation Regiment to be airlifted in Helmand province, on October 31, 2011. The Marine was hit by an IED, lost both his legs and fights for his life. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

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The month of May in Afghanistan opened with news of US Navy SEALs killing Osama bin Laden. Suicide bombings claimed lives throughout the country, one injuring the top German commander. Another outside the Italian military base in Herat west of Kabul killed at least five. As the month closed, President Hamid Karzai issued vague warnings against Western airstrikes that cause civilian casualties. Gathered here in our monthly collection from Afghanistan are images of the US military mission and daily life in the country of just under 30 million people. -- Lloyd Young (45 photos total)
n Afghan youth looks on as a US Marine from 3rd Battalion 9th Marines Kodiak Company stands guard during a patrol in Kote Tazagul area in Marjah district in Helmand Province on May 24, 2011. US lawmakers saw momentum for political reconciliation in Afghanistan in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death, but voiced fear that the fight against extremism was floundering in Pakistan. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images)

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