Jeffrey Stern

Countdown 2014

Countdown 2014: A Series for Foreign Policy

Countdown 2014 is an online oral history and portraiture exhibit in which Afghans speak for themselves about their hopes and fears for the future, as international forces withdraw. This project was made possible by support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

The Therapist

9 January 2014 | The South Asia Channel/Foreign Policy Magazine

The Therapist

Shabnam is warm, funny and confident. A refreshing combination of modern and traditional, she is unconcerned about having her photo taken, but doesn’t shake my hand. She strikes me as a perfect symbol of this country’s best hope: its plentiful supply of people who are young, educated, and progressive-minded, but still deferential to tradition. She has traveled outside of Afghanistan, and feels it has benefitted her, but she is committed to staying and working here. And though she has serious concerns about what happens as the international troops leave, she is not crippled by them. She has a mission—she has identified a scourge she has a talent for treating, and she means to keep at it no matter what happens around her.

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The batsman

18 October 2013 | The South Asia Channel/Foreign Policy Magazine

The batsman

When not working out at Kabul’s cricket academy, Dost Mohammad is working in his father’s shop, selling clothes and trinkets, knockoffs from Asia of brands from Europe. And when he’s not at the family store, he’s playing more cricket—pick-up games with neighborhood boys, practicing his bowling or his special kind of batting. The cricket academy is almost lush by Kabul standards, with a well-manicured grass field surrounded by a grandstand. But the field across the street, where Mohammad does his extra practice, is harsh. There’s no grass, just hard-packed dust that pounds his joints and kicks up into his lungs, and there’s no respite from the sun, which is strongest at midday when Mohammad tends to be there.

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The squatter

4 October 2013 | The South Asia Channel/Foreign Policy Magazine

The squatter

The mountainsides that surround Kabul are covered with squatter houses, the homes of people have claimed the land by building on it.  They’re undeterred by the steep grade; from below, many homes appear to be affixed to nearly vertical mountain faces.  Many of the highest houses are inaccessible by car, but to get close you take narrow roads quickly, speeding so you don’t stall or lose traction.  The steeper and wilder the terrain, the faster you go.

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The migrant

27 September 2013 | The South Asia Channel/Foreign Policy Magazine

The migrant

Narges, who asked to only use her nickname, is soft-spoken and always colorfully dressed, usually opting for rich, dark fabrics. Her affect is, at first glance, demure, almost passive. But it belies a fearlessness and a clever wit, both of which she deploys constantly as an ardent defender of women’s rights who says she thinks her country has it all wrong, and who has maintained and defended this view, though there is little support for it even within her own family.

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The keyholder

8 September 2013 | The South Asia Channel/Foreign Policy Magazine

The keyholder

Omara Khan Massoudi is the Director of Afghanistan’s National Museum, guarding its treasures in various positions for more than four decades, and is the reason it has been brought back to life. He is an elegant man and old-fashioned in his habits, but his gentle air belies a ferocity with which he has fought to preserve the country’s archeological history, keeping the museum doors open even when there was no roof over head, no visitors in the halls, and hardly any artifacts in the display cases.

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Contact

Please contact Jeffrey Stern for pitches, assignments, story ideas, or projects in general.