From the district-office roof, an Afghan Special Forces (ASF) team stared into the dark that had fallen over Sangin's mud compounds. They were pulling overnight guard duty for a peace-and-reconciliation meeting and listening to a captured Taliban radio. Ranking officer Bashir swept a forearm against the starry horizon.
"They are close."
He turned up the volume. Taliban fighters were discussing safe areas, movements, a car bomb, who would bring the blankets. It was a chilly night.
"Mostly it is propaganda," said Bashir. His men remained vigilant.
It had been a long day. That morning, they had driven from Lashkar Gah, the...