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Vyacheslav Oseledko

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In early April, in an attempt to accelerate the transition of military responsibility to the Afghan government, the US agreed to hand control of special operations missions to Afghan forces, including night raids, relegating American troops to a supporting role. This deal cleared the way for the two countries to move ahead with an agreement that would establish the shape of American support to Afghanistan after the 2014 troop withdrawal deadline. Domestic support for the war (in the US) has dropped sharply. We look back at March in the troubled country. -- Paula Nelson (37 photos total)
Young Afghan women use an umbrella to shield themselves from the sun in Kabul, April 5, 2012. The position of women in Afghanistan has improved dramatically since the fall of the Taliban, with the number of girls in education soaring. But as the Americans and the Afghan government have pursued peace efforts with the Taliban, women are increasingly concerned that gains in their rights may be compromised in a bid to end the costly and deadly war. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

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FIERY MATCH
FIERY MATCH: A Panathinaikos fan threw a flare at police during a soccer game against Olympiakos in Athens Monday. The game was abandoned because of escalating violence against police. Nine officers were injured. Away fans weren’t permitted to attend due to restrictions that sought to curb violence. (Zuma Press)

PROTESTING
PROTESTING: Monks protested in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday. In Geneva, Sri Lankans have been protesting outside the United Nations over international efforts to hold their nation accountable for alleged abuses during the government’s war with Tamil Tigers that ended in 2009. (S. Kodikara/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

WALL OF SMOKE
WALL OF SMOKE: A wall of smoke rose from a wildfire Sunday, forcing authorities to temporarily close a section of U.S. Highway 34, east of Yuma, Ariz. Evacuated residents of Eckley, Colo., and surrounding areas were allowed to return home after firefighters contained most of the fire. (Tony Rayle/the Yuma Sun/Associated Press)

PEACEFUL RULE
PEACEFUL RULE: The body of Pope Shenouda, the head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, was viewed by Christians inside Abbasiya Cathedral in Cairo Monday. Pope Shenouda died Saturday at the age of 88. Tens of thousands of Christians lined up to pay their final respects. (Khaled Elfiqi/European Pressphoto Agency)

TRADITIONAL SPORT
TRADITIONAL SPORT: Men participated in the traditional sport Buzkashi, in which they vie for the carcass or skin of an animal, in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Monday. (Vyacheslav Oseledko/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

JUMP
JUMP: A supporter of former President Mohamed Nasheed threw a bottle toward police during a protest against new President Mohammed Waheed Hassan in Male, Maldives, Monday. Mr. Hassan opened parliament weeks after he took office in what his predecessor has called a coup. (Sinan Hussain/Associated Press)

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The United States and allied forces have been in Afghanistan for over ten years, an occupation that approaches the 2014 deadline for a full withdrawal of those forces. As the transition draws closer, problems with security, the economy, and cultural mores are growing even more apparent. Included in this monthly look at Afghanistan are images that highlight these issues, as well as images that point to a more hopeful future. The activist group YoungWomen4Change prepares posters demanding women's rights even as the horrific torture of 15-year-old Sahar Gul, who refused her husband's family's demands that she become a prostitute, came to light. Also included here are images of another Afghan girl, 12-year-old Tarana Akbari, who witnessed the terrible suicide bombing in Kabul that killed at least 80 Shiites during observances of the Ashura holiday. The bombing has raised fears of renewed sectarian violence. -- Lane Turner (37 photos total)
A man feeds pigeons in front of the Shrine of Hazrat Ali, or Blue Mosque, in Mazar-e-Sharif on December 22, 2011. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

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The Hajj pilgrimage draws millions of Muslims from around the world every year to Mecca, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, Islam's holiest place. Saudi Arabia expects to host perhaps three million people in a ritual journey that every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it must make at least once in their lifetime. It is the largest annual gathering of humanity anywhere. Timed to the Muslim lunar calendar, the Hajj is followed by the celebrations of the three-day festival of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, which symbolizes Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. Collected here are photographs of the Hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, as well as images of preparations for the Hajj and Eid al-Adha in many other parts of the Muslim world. -- Lane Turner (42 photos total)
A Muslim pilgrim prays as visits the Hiraa cave at the top of Noor Mountain on the outskirts of Mecca, Saudi Arabia on November 2, 2011. According to tradition, Islam's Prophet Mohammed received his first message to preach Islam while he was praying in the cave. (Hassan Ammar/AP)

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All it takes are two groups of people, one to gather and one to march past them. Parades took place across the globe these past two months for a variety of celebrations, from shows of military power, to tributes to organized labor, to pride for one’s country or culture. -- Lloyd Young (37 photos total)
Performers dance in the street parade at the annual Notting Hill Carnival in central London Aug. 29.. Revelers flocked to west London for one of Europe's biggest street parties, with record numbers of police on duty to prevent a repetition of riots that shook the British capital three weeks ago. Notting Hill Carnival, an annual celebration of Caribbean culture that usually draws about 1 million people for a colorful procession of musicians and performers. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

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We humans share this planet with countless other species, interacting with many of them daily, others rarely. We treat some as sources of food and others as sources of companionship, entertainment, or education. We experiment with them at a genetic level, try to understand their overall behavior, and bond with them on an intimate scale. Most animals live their lives independently of us, but they dwell in habitats that we shape profoundly. Gathered below are images of animals in the news from the past several weeks, seen from the perspectives of their human observers, companions, captors, and caretakers. [42 photos]

A monkey who survived the Ivorian post-electoral crisis at the Abidjan Zoo. Three lions named Lea, Simba and Loulou, "died of hunger", said Claude-Sie Kam, a zoo employee, to an AFP reporter. About forty animals perished due to lack of food at the Abidjan Zoo during the Ivorian crisis. (Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images)

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Summer weather brings people together outside to enjoy music festivals, county fairs, carnivals and religious observations. I've gathered here some recent images of these celebrations, including a flaming horseman in Kyrgyzstan, Bastille Day in France, a German fun park inside a former nuclear power plant, and much more. [39 photos]

A girl on her father's shoulders looks through a maze of sunflowers growing in a field during a three-day sunflower festival in the town of Nogi, Tochigi prefecture, north of Tokyo, on July 24, 2011. A total of some 200,000 sunflowers welcomed guests for the summer festival, an annual draw for the small town. (Kazuhuro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images)

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