Down, Dirty and Aching for a Fight

This is not a good place," says allah Mahmad, quickening his pace. "But this is where we live."

The approach road to what in better times was the base of the Afghan army's 40th Division in the northeast of the country does not inspire confidence. To our left is a row of farmhouse walls scarred by shrapnel and bullets. To our right, in the fading light, an empty expanse of ground stretches to Taliban positions 600 m distant. Both sides of the road are heavily mined. The road itself is totally exposed. "We're in a salient out...

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