Prospect contributor Stephen Grey has won the 2010 Kurt Schork award for freelance international journalism. Launched in 2001, the Schork awards honour excellence and bravery in freelance reporting from areas of crisis and transition. They celebrate the life and work of Kurt Schork, the former freelance reporter who was killed eight years ago in Sierra Leone while on assignment for Reuters.
In August 2009 Prospect published one of the three stories for which Grey won the award, “Cracking on in Helmand.” In this piece Grey offers a panoramic view of the conflict in Afghanistan, moving from personal stories and frontline reportage to a detailed account of the wider conflict. Throughout, he highlights the confusions, contradictions and complexity of the conflict, as in this excerpt below:
It was during the following winter, in December 2007, that I first visited Helmand and witnessed Operation Snakebite: the battle to retake Musa Qala and the most important battle fought thus far in the Helmand campaign. After leaving south London on a Sunday, by Friday I was crouching in a ditch with enemy bullets ripping up the dust, wishing I was fitter.
This first attack was a British move on the outskirts of Musa Qala. It was a ruse to occupy the Taliban while US paratroopers landed elsewhere. The plan was typical of a Helmand engagement. We walked across an open, dusty field towards the village. They started firing and we dived to what cover there was. The gunfight underlined the complexity of the war. Five groups were firing at once: the British, the Afghan army, US special forces, US paratroopers and the Taliban. Amid all this were civilians trying to escape. By nightfall seven Afghans, including two children, lay dead.