The U.S. wrapped up combat operations in Afghanistan last year. About 10,000 U.S. military personnel remain in the country, but they have pulled back to their large bases, and are advising the Afghans at the headquarters level. None are present as the Afghan army wages this fight on its eastern frontier.
An Afghan army front end loader digs into the hillside, and fills the large sand bags for the checkpoint. The Taliban have been pushed back but they continue their harassing fire.
That’s what concerns Zakirullah, the head of the local police. Like many Afghans, he goes by one name. He’s a short, squat man with a heavy beard, clutching a radio. His village is spread out in the valley below, a patchwork of green fields and mud brick compounds. Zakirullah doubts the Afghan army can help his village.
“When the Americans were here, this area was very secure, it was safe. After they left, Taliban replaced them,” he says.