Some are missing fingers, others a leg or an eye. Many carry multiple scars and the ringing sound of the last explosion trapped in their heads. Most have not been home in years — to go home is to drive into Taliban territory. So their mothers come to them once in a while, with dried fruit or embroidered tunics.
A brief truce has brought this battle-weary unit of the Afghan police, holed up in their hilltop outposts in Zabul Province, an unexpected respite from the daily attacks they had come to see as inevitable. In the final days before a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban insurgency was expected to be signed, and the partial cease-fire that was set as a precondition seems to be holding. The police on this remote, southern battlefield suddenly have time for questions they once hardly imagined asking: Could there really be peace? What would that be like?
Scarred and Weary, an Afghan Force Wonders: What Is Peace?
A truce is prompting introspection. “Who is it on the other side?” mused a 15-year veteran of intimate warfare. “They are not even from a different district.”