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Zabul

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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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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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In the month of July, 54 coalition soldiers were killed in Afghanistan, including 32 Americans. This was as the United States began drawing down its forces, with some 10,000 U.S. troops due to pull out by the end of the year. Currently, the U.S. has some 150,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan. This month also saw an escalation in recent assassinations claimed by the Taliban, as both the mayor of Kandahar and President Hamid Karzai's half-brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, were killed. The assassinations and continued suicide attacks are heightening uncertainty in the face of troop withdrawals, despite assurances from both coalition and Afghan officials. Gathered here are images from the ongoing conflict over the past 31 days, part of an ongoing monthly series on Afghanistan. [41 photos]

Members of the Third Platoon, Bravo Battery of the Automatic Battalion, 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment, light up the Zabul province night firing their M777A2 howitzer at suspected enemy movements from Forward Operating Base Pasab, Zharay District, Zabul province, Afghanistan, on July 20, 2011. (U.S. Army/Sgt. Christopher McCann)

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