Sandals, salwaars and security

Mid-summer afternoons in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, feel like someone has hosed the air with hot steam. Standing outside the roof of a British Army patrol vehicle known as a 'Snatch' Land Rover, the air slams against the face as the vehicle speeds past the main bazaar in town. Fear of roadside bombs and suicide attackers in the market keeps the young men at the police check post on the main road leading to the bazaar alert at all times, closely monitoring vehicles entering and leaving. Along the road in Lashkar Gah and beyond, a number of such police check posts keep an eye on the neighbourhood foes, the Taliban.

In the scorching heat on the roof of a remote police checkpoint outside the bazaar, Abdullah Abdullah sat under a makeshift screen made from the hood of a rusty old farm tractor. A battered AK-47 stood on the bunker, slightly slanted, pointing in the direction of the mud huts situated between the lush green fields nearby. Beside his bed, an old Sanyo radio played Pashto songs. "This is my best friend," he said of the radio, pulling it onto his lap. "When my conversation with the bullets is over, he is the one I can speak to." Dozens of muddy dead batteries lying on the ground were evidence of Abdullah's intimate friendship with his radio. Rotating its broken knob, he spoke of how the Taliban­ could be hatching an attack for that very evening.

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Himal Southasian