Although not stated in so many words, this NYT article detailing the withdrawal of America’s diplomatic and military A-team from Afghanistan, paired with Obama dialing back the mission, basically spells America throwing in the towel. Sensing the turn, visual media is already busy fleshing out the picture.
Although the scene came about innocently enough — just one more propaganda photo of an Afghan boy giving a goodwill token to a U.S. soldier doing the counter-insurgency thing — the photo has a special “thwack” to it as the Afghan mission pivots into free-fall. In an almost cruel twist on the effectiveness of asymmetrical warfare, the photo speaks to the futility of the Afghan mission and the emasculation of U.S. forces in a land that repels outside powers through a combination of tenacity and sheer primitivism.
(photo: Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters. caption: Brandon Pearson, U.S. Navy (USN) Hospital Man attached with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, uses a slingshot given by an Afghan boy during a break during a patrol outside Patrol Base Johnson in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, July 5, 2011.)