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Ahmad Nadeem

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Earlier this week, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta indicated that American forces in Afghanistan would be accelerating their withdrawal. "Hopefully by the mid-to-latter part of 2013," Panetta said, "we'll be able to make a transition from a combat role to a training, advice, and assist role." This announcement came shortly after the Taliban declared its plans to open a political office in Qatar, allowing for direct peace negotiations. At the moment, the U.S. still has 90,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan, with 22,000 scheduled to return home later this year. 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]

Men of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, during an operation near the end of their third deployment in three years in Afghanistan. They were securing route 611, which runs Kajaki Sofla, an area that had long been a safe haven for insurgent sub-commanders and for arms and drug trafficking. (Cpl. James Clark/USMC)

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Dwi Oblo's picture, draws you in through the light and the smoke, to evoke a real feeing of people humbling themselves as they pay respects to their dead relatives as they also prepare for Ramadan.

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MANGLED: A sign ripped from a building lay on the ground Tuesday in Joplin, Mo., days after a tornado tore through the city, killing at least 116 people and destroying structures. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)

TENT CITY: A demonstrator smoked a cigarette outside her tent as protesters occupied Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid Tuesday. Protesters have occupied the square to rally against Spain’s economic crisis after Sunday’s local elections saw the ruling Socialists lose. (Pedro Armestre/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

UP IN THE AIR: President Barack Obama and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron played table tennis at the Globe Academy in London Tuesday. Mr. Obama will attend a state dinner hosted by Queen Elizabeth II and he will deliver a speech to Parliament at Westminster Hall Wednesday, making him the first U.S. president to do so. (Paul Hackett/Associated Press)

SHIELDED: A farmer wore protective goggles and a mask in Kirkjubaejarklaustur, Iceland, Tuesday. About 500 flights were expected to be canceled across Europe Tuesday due to ash from Iceland’s erupting Grímsvötn volcano. (Ingolfur Juliusson/Reuters)

CORN QUALITY CONTROL: Workers checked the quality of corn in Puebla, Mexico, Monday. (Alberto Millares/Demotix)

UNION BUSTING: Workers from Yoosung Enterprise, a Hyundai Motor supplier, were arrested during a strike at a factory in Asan, South Korea, Tuesday. They went on strike after wage talks broke down. Hyundai said the dispute is causing production problems for it and Kia Motors. (Lee Myung Ik/European Pressphoto Agency)

TENDING TO HIS BROTHER: A man attended to his brother, who was injured with dozens of other people when a roadside bomb detonated in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Tuesday. About 10 Afghan construction workers were killed in the incident. (Ahmad Nadeem/Reuters)

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He was beaten with sticks, his gear smashed and his hand broken, it was then an armed man instructed the mob to kill him. Ahmad fled for his life escaping into a nearby house where he successfully...

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