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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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FROLICKING: Children played as seawater hit walls on a beach in East Timor Thursday. (Beawiharta/Reuters)

SAVING AMMO: A soldier grabbed ammunition after a fire, sparked by the use of cannon fire, erupted during a training exercise in central Portugal Thursday. (Paulo Cunha/European Pressphoto Agency)

DRAMA IN THE SKIES: A sky diver’s parachute got tangled after he left a formation in Moscow Thursday. The experienced sky diver was able to cut away his twisted canopy and deploy his reserve parachute, landing safely. A fellow sky diver captured the incident. (National News/Zuma Press)

FLEEING HOME: A Syrian refugee celebrated as he got closer to friends waiting at the border in Reyhanli, Turkey, Thursday. Officials said more than 1,000 Syrians have fled into Turkey over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of Syrian refugees in Turkey to at least 14,700. (Burhan Ozbilici/Associated Press)

RICE RESERVES: Workers stacked rice at a warehouse owned by Indonesia’s state procurement agency in Makassar, Indonesia, Thursday. (Yusuf Ahmad/Reuters)

FACING A WALL: Alleged terrorists stood beside explosive devices after they were captured by Afghan National Security Forces members in Herat province, Afghanistan, Thursday. (Sardar/Xinhua/Zuma Press)

PARK SLUMBER: A man slept with a newspaper on his face in the grass in a London park Thursday. (Carl Court/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

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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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