Award-winning American photojournalist Paula Bronstein first travelled to Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11 attacks, to cover the US-led "Occupation Enduring Freedom". She has returned to the country repeatedly over the past 14 years to document the lives of the Afghan people against the backdrop of a brutal and protracted war.

Paula Bronstein Afghanistan
Bamiyan, 19 February 2002: An Afghan girl who lives in the caves of Bamiyan sits in front of the ruins of a Buddha statue that the Taliban blew up the previous yearPaula Bronstein/Getty Images

She says: "From my very first visit, I was drawn to Afghanistan's astounding landscapes along with the Afghans' inner strength to survive. I returned often for the on-going news coverage but found myself more absorbed with the human condition, and the diversity of daily life. The ongoing war in Afghanistan, which began as a violent retaliation after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, has escalated into a war with a growing price tag of both money and lives."

Her remarkable photographs have been gathered together for the first time in a powerful new book, Afghanistan: Between Hope and Fear (University of Texas Press, August 2016). Her work goes beyond war coverage to reveal the full complexity of daily life in what may be the most reported on, yet least understood country in the world.

Paula Bronstein Afghanistan
Mazar-e-Sharif, 8 March 2008: A woman in a white burqa enjoys an afternoon with her family feeding the white pigeons at the Blue MosquePaula Bronstein/Getty Images
Paula Bronstein Afghanistan
Surobi, Nangarhar Province, 7 February 2009: An elderly man holds his granddaughter in their tent at a refugee camp after they were forced to flee their village, which US and Nato forces had bombed because, they claimed, it was a Taliban hideoutPaula Bronstein/Getty Images
Paula Bronstein Afghanistan
Kabul, 1 March 2002: Mahbooba stands against a bullet-ridden wall, waiting to be seen at a medical clinic. The seven-year-old girl suffers from leishmaniasis, a parasitical infectionPaula Bronstein/Getty Images
Paula Bronstein Afghanistan
Chaman, Pakistan, 4 December 2001: Afghans at the Killi Faizo refugee camp desperately reach for bags of rice being handed out to the thousands who escaped the bombardment in southern Afghanistan during Operation Enduring FreedomPaula Bronstein/Getty Images
Paula Bronstein Afghanistan
Kabul, 13 January 2002: A girl looks through the frosted window of a restaurant, hoping to get leftovers. She begs after school to help out her familyPaula Bronstein/Getty Images

She has spent a great deal of time with the Afghan people, covering the on-going challenges facing the country today, such as human rights abuses against women, poverty, heroin addiction and increased violence and instability. As a female photojournalist working in a conservative Islamic country, Bronstein is able to give voice to many Afghans who remain silenced by Taliban repression, particularly women and children.

Afghanistan is cited by international rights groups as one of the worst places to live if you are born female and Bronstein's searing photographs bear this out. She depicts the struggle of Afghanistan's more than 2.5 million war widows, many of whom are left penniless and powerless and forced to beg on the streets. Her harrowing pictures show the anguish and desperation of Afghan women who practice self-immolation to escape forced marriages and domestic abuse.

Paula Bronstein Afghanistan
Kabul, 22 March 2015: Relatives, friends, and women’s rights activists grieve at the home of Farkhunda Malikzada, who was killed by a mob in the centre of Kabul. Farkhunda was violently beaten and set on fire after a local cleric accused her of burning a Qur’anPaula Bronstein
Paula Bronstein Afghanistan
Kabul, 10 April 2015: Naiz Bibi, who was blinded in one eye, claims she is 68, but really can’t remember clearly. After a Nato air strike killed seven members of her family, including her husband, a daughter, and two sons, she and eight remaining family members fled north, ending up in the squalid Nasaji Bagrami camp along with thousands of other war refugeesPaula Bronstein
Paula Bronstein Afghanistan
Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, 23 June 2014: Razima holds her two-year-old son, Malik, while waiting for medical attention at the Boost Hospital emergency roomPaula Bronstein
Paula Bronstein Afghanistan
Bamiyan, 19 November 2003: A mother and her two children look out from their cave dwelling. Many families who, fleeing the Taliban, took refuge inside caves adjacent to Bamiyan’s destroyed ancient Buddha statues now have nowhere else to livePaula Bronstein/Getty Images

She also records the stirrings of new hope, including women participating in elections for the first time, education for girls, and expanded job and recreational opportunities for both men and women.

Paula Bronstein Afghanistan
Kabul, 5 April 2014: Burqa-clad women wait to vote after a polling station ran out of ballotsPaula Bronstein
Paula Bronstein Afghanistan
Northeastern Afghanistan, 2 September 2007: Students recite prayers in a makeshift outdoor classroom in the Wakhan Corridor, a mountainous region in northeastern Afghanistan that extends to China and separates Tajikistan from India and PakistanPaula Bronstein/Getty Images
Paula Bronstein Afghanistan
Kabul, 6 August 2007: Bodybuilders in the 55–60 kg category square off during a regional bodybuilding competition. Many Afghan men, like others around the world, feel that a macho image of physical strength is importantPaula Bronstein/Getty Images
Paula Bronstein Afghanistan
Kabul, 21 November 2014: Eid Muhammad, 70, lives in a house with a view overlooking the hills of Kabul. He and millions of other Afghans occupy land and housing without possessing formal deeds to themPaula Bronstein
Paula Bronstein Afghanistan
Band-e-Amir, 6 September 2009. Swan paddle boats lie beached at the edge of one of the six lakes in Band-e-Amir National Park, which attracts tourists from across the country. Located in central Afghanistan, near the Bamiyan Buddhas, the area was declared Afghanistan’s first national park on 22 April 2009Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Bronstein says she is pretty much the only foreigner on the plane when she visits Afghanistan these days. "Perhaps the world wants to move on from this never- ending war that has plagued this country but we can't leave the Afghan people behind. The fact is that so far this year the reality is unsettling as the conflict is becoming increasingly bloody, civilian casualties reaching a record high."

In her afterword in the book, Bronstein writes: "I have made some of the most extraordinary photos of my career in Afghanistan, with face after face offering a complex and intriguing gaze and revealing the constant tension between optimism and reality that shapes the lives of so many here. I keep going back, motivated and inspired by those faces, pushing against the difficulties, hoping to find fewer doors slamming shut and more people seeing reasons to smile."

Paula Bronstein Afghanistan
The cover of Paula Bronstein's book features a photograph of eighteen-yearold Masooma, taken in Herat on 21 October 2004. Having attempted suicide by setting herself on fire, she now has severe burns on 70 percent of her body. Forced marriages, domestic violence, poverty, and lack of access to education are the main reasons Afghan women try to kill themselvesPaula Bronstein/Getty Images

Paula Bronstein's Afghanistan: Between Hope and Fear is a large-format hardback book featuring 228 pages and 114 colour photos. Find out more here.