Afghanistan

Staff Sgt. Mario Tenario, Company A, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division trains Afghan National Army soldiers how to inspect equipment.

Considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world, Afghanistan has been wracked by continuous war for over three decades. The U.S., U.K., Australia, France, and Afghan United Front began Operation Enduring Freedom on October 7th, 2001 in response to the September 11th attacks in the U.S. The mission focused on the the overthrow of the Taliban government, as well as the ouster of Al Qaida and it leaders, including Osama Bin Laden. With over a decade of combat, it has become the second longest war in the U.S. history. The conflict has resulted in over two thousand U.S. troops killed.

With the death of Bin Laden, the U.S. is formulating plans for withdrawal from the region. President Obama has announced an end to combat operations, but an unknown number of troops will likely remain in the country after the 2014 deadline. Afghanistan is currently seeking financial assistance from other countries to assist in the reconstruction process.

Afghanistan has been populated for millennia, seeing the rise and fall of empires, kingdoms, and religions. Islam -- which influences much of its current culture and politics -- is the most popular religion in the region. The current estimated population is over 30 million, with Pashtun and Tajik as the two largest ethnicities.

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guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams

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