Elder Inside Floating Sufi Bubble

 by Rawclyde!

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Tiny bubbles & colossal bubbles

All kinds of bubbles blowing in the wind

Full of Sufi miracles

Impossible to comprehend

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Capt’n Chuck Fiddler’s Afghaneeland Bubble

Inside which resides the mountain ridge

On which is perched the village of Pluckame

Now hovers above a borderland of Afghanistan

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Afghan National Army soldiers fire their guns

The Taliban keep a comin’ outta Pakistan

Faraway Iraq & Syria suck up American air support

But for one strange bubble in the sky

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Capt’n Chuck Fiddler’s Afghaneeland Bubble

The most viable support Afghan soldiers have got now

From the United States or from their own nation

Has them buffaloed & worried

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40 soldiers surrounded by 1,000 screaming enemy

And 10,000 ricocheting singing bullets

 Repeatedly look up & pray for a stray Warthog aeroplane

But all they see up there is a bubble!

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Capt’n Chuck Fiddler’s Afghaneeland Bubble

Offers them as much soothing consolation as an unarmed goat

With a bell around his neck warning every Talib in the vicinity

That he is lamb-chops sneeking around

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One Afghan patriot, Pvt. Ghani Gandhara, gets a bullet in the belly

Moans, gazes futiley at the sky & spies the damn bubble

 That pretends to be a Sufi miracle floating amidst the tumultuous clouds

 The wounded private cries out, “Ah shit!  Allah loves the Taliban!!!”

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One of the oldest living faces on planet Earth shows up

Magnified magnificently on the soapy orb above the profusely bleeding soldier

And, thusly, an elder of the village inside it speaks forth to Pvt. Gandhara

“Have faith.  It’s all you’ve got right now.”

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Tiny bubbles & colossal bubbles

All kinds of bubbles blowing in the wind

Full of Sufi miracles

Too wondrous to comprehend

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Afghaneeland Adventure Series | Old Timer Chronicle II

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More U.S. Air Strikes Please

F-15 Strike Eagle

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by James “Reuters” Mackenzie

Gandhara News

February 11, 2016

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Commanders in Washington and Kabul agree that an increased air presence is looking like a necessary response amid growing pressure on the U.S. Army to help Afghan forces fight Taliban militants.

John Campbell, the outgoing commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, says a broader authorization of force is the best way to support stretched local troops now that there are fewer American soldiers on the ground and their rules of engagement are limited. Since NATO, whose presence in the country is dominated by U.S. armed forces, officially ended combat operations in 2014, its mission in Afghanistan has focused on training and assisting local troops.

Such an initiative would include attacks from the air, which dropped sharply in 2015. “Only air support and air strikes break the Taliban,” said General Daud Shah Wafadar, commander of the Afghan Army’s 205th Corps, based in the southern city of Kandahar, which is close to some of the fiercest fighting in recent months.

Such calls for more bombing raids are not new, but the debate has gained further urgency since the Taliban made significant territorial gains, particularly in northern Kunduz and swathes of Helmand Province in the south.

“I think we’ve seen this year that they (the Taliban) have taken advantage of the reduction of the number of coalition aircraft,” Campbell told the House Armed Services Committee last week.

The United States carried out about 400 air strikes last year, down from some 1,100 in 2014, when it was in full combat mode. There were 12 air strikes by U.S. aircraft in two days in Helmand last month in unusually heavy engagement, used to help relieve a dozen U.S. special forces soldiers serving on the ground on a mission with Afghan counterparts.

“That’s quite a bit in terms of what we’ve used down there recently,” said Brigadier General Wilson Shoffner, U.S. Army spokesman in Kabul, referring to the battle in which one Green Beret was killed. “That’s the kind of thing that’s happening down there.”

In a sign of alarm over recent events in Helmand, hundreds more American troops are heading to the restive province, although the U.S. Army specified their role would be to train, advise, and assist, and “not to participate in combat operations.”

Their rules of engagement limit the forces to defending U.S. troops from attack, although a Pentagon report to Congress says they may take action “in extremis” to avoid “detrimental strategic effects to the campaign.”

“If the Taliban are attacking coalition forces, then I have everything I need to do that,” Campbell said. “To attack the Taliban just because they’re Taliban — I do not have that authority.”

“Realistically, the thing that I can make a difference on is authorities as we go forward,” he said.

Recently, U.S. troops were given broader authority to target Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan.

NATO’s withdrawal of most of its troops by the end of 2014 has been keenly felt on the ground. U.S. forces are set to be cut from 9,800 to 5,500 by the end of 2016. More than 140,000 foreign soldiers once fought the Taliban, a hard-line Islamist militant movement attempting to regain power in Kabul.

“There used to be dozens of foreign military advisers who played a key role and helped us with all issues, but now there is only one with me,” Wafadar said, adding that local forces were, however, largely coping without their allies.

With no immediate prospect of adding “boots on the ground,” others have also suggested broader terms of engagement. In a recent editorial in The Washington Post, David Petraeus, one of Campbell’s predecessors, said Washington should “unleash our air power in support of our Afghan partners.”

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http://gandhara.rferl.org/a/pressure-mounts-us-air-strikes-afghanistan/27545420.html

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4 Light Attack Aircraft Delivered

A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft…

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Khaama Press

Jan 15, 2016 (more than a month ago)

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The delivery of the first batch of Light Attack aircraft to the Afghan armed forces formally concluded today in the presence of the Afghan defense officials.

The first batch include four aircraft delivered by the United States of America as part of the efforts to bolster the capabilities of the Afghan Air force (AAF).

Acting Afghan Defense Minister Masoom Stanikzai reiterated that a long term plan is required to fully equip the Afghan Air Force (AAF), admitting the presence of will by the Afghan government and it’s international allies in modernizing the air force.

Welcoming the delivery of the first batch of A-29 Super Tucano Light Attack aircraft by United States to Afghanistan, Stanikzai said the addition of the aircraft will add to the capabilities of the Afghan air power.

According to Stanikzai, the aircraft are capable to provide close-air support to the ground forces and is able to carry over 30 different types of weapons and munitions to the mission.

The A-29 is a multi-role, fixed-wing aircraft that will provide the Afghan air force with an indigenous air-to-ground capability and aerial reconnaissance capabilities to support the country’s counterinsurgency operations.

Eight Afghan Air Force pilots completed their training late last year and graduated from a program hosted by the 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Force Base in United States and will return to Afghanistan for combat…

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http://www.khaama.com/u-s-completes-delivery-of-4-light-attack-aircraft-to-afghan-air-force-1997

http://defenceforumindia.com/forum/s/afghanistan.132

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Taliban Capture Islamic-State Bases

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by Ayaz Gul

Voice of America

January 05, 2016  (more than a month ago)

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Fierce clashes have reportedly erupted between Taliban and Islamic State (IS) fighters in eastern Afghanistan, leaving dozens of people dead on both sides.

Afghan police reported Tuesday the fighting in the remote Batikot and Chaparhar districts of Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan, began after hundreds of Taliban insurgents mounted a big attack on IS bases earlier this week.

The Taliban offensive is said to have captured the two districts but attempts to dislodge the rival group from the nearby Nazyan district, which is considered the IS stronghold in Afghanistan, could not succeed.

Separately, the provincial governor’s office told media that security forces ambushed and killed at least 15 IS fighters near the conflict zone late on Monday.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed to VOA that clashes have taken place and claimed Taliban fighters ousted IS militants from the two districts. Mujahid did not give further details.

The Taliban apparently considers IS a threat to its ongoing violence campaign against the NATO-backed Afghan government.

The Islamist insurgency initiated attacks against IS militants from southern Zabul and western Farah provinces in November and succeeded in dislodging them from the area, a development acknowledged by local Afghan officials.

IS, which controls large areas in Syria and Iraq, has recently established bases in parts of Nangarhar before attempting to extend influence to other parts of the war-ravaged country.

Afghan authorities insist most of the IS fighters are Pakistani nationals hailing from areas such as Orakzai, Khyber and Bajaur, three of the seven semiautonomous tribal districts of Pakistan lining the border with Afghanistan.

IS has recently launched its propaganda FM radio station from an unknown location in Nangarhar to encourage Afghan youth to join the group.

Afghan authorities recently claimed to have jammed the broadcast but residents and local media say the transmission is continuing uninterrupted, encouraging the public to join the IS fight against the Kabul government, its NATO allies and the Taliban.

Meanwhile, local media in Pakistan has also quoted officials as confirming the Taliban assault on IS militants in the Afghan border areas, saying the hostilities killed more than 150 militants, mostly Islamic State supporters and commanders.

Pakistan has been conducting counterterrorism army operations on its side of the volatile border and officials have acknowledged some insurgents have fled to Afghanistan.

Pakistani authorities have also stepped up a crackdown on suspected IS hideouts in major cities, rounding up dozens of militants linked to the Middle Eastern terror group.

Rana Sanaullah, law minister of the country’s populous Punjab province, revealed on Monday as many as 100 suspected extremists have left Pakistan for Syria to take part in the conflict there.

The revelation contradicted repeated claims by the federal authorities that IS has “no organized presence in Pakistan.”

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story

http://www.voanews.com/content/taliban-captures-islamic-state-bases-in-afghanistan/3131609.html

art

http://hellbat.deviantart.com/art/Sikh-Warrior-349538717

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Corrupt Leaders Blunt Afghan Army

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by Richard Sisk

Military.com

Jan 20, 2016 (nearly a month ago)

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The Taliban has taken over “some” districts in Afghanistan’s flashpoint Helmand province as Afghanistan National Army (ANA) units struggle against their own corrupt leadership and desertions in the ranks, a U.S. military spokesman in Kabul said Tuesday.

The fight in Helmand, center of the poppy and heroin trade and a main source of funding for the Taliban, has resulted in the loss of several areas to the enemy but Army Brig. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner repeatedly declined to name them.

When asked several times where the lost districts were, Shoffner said it was “hard to specify exactly how many at any given time. But there are some that — where the Taliban have control.”

“Again, those districts that we’re talking about, things change rapidly. And I’ll leave it that they are contested. It’s difficult to pin down an exact number that are under Taliban control at any given time. They do go back and forth,” Shoffner said.

Earlier, Shoffner had been specific in discussing Afghanistan as a whole. “Afghanistan has 404 districts in total. We assess that right now, the Taliban have control of only nine of those districts. We assess they have influence in about 17 others.”

In Helmand, “the area in and around Marjah remains a contested area, and that’s as far as I’ll go there,” said Shoffner, deputy chief of communications for NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan and main spokesman for Army Gen. John Campbell, the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan commander.

Marjah in central Helmand was the focal point of the U.S. Marine offensive in 2010 that took back control of the area from the Taliban. Marjah was also the scene earlier this month of the battle in which Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Q McClintock was killed as a U.S. Special Forces team went to the aid of Afghan forces.

In a video briefing to the Pentagon from Kabul, Shoffner said efforts to counter the Taliban’s offensive in Helmand, which began last October, have been hampered by the poor morale and leadership of the ANA’s 215th Corps, the main unit in the province.

“I can tell you that in the 215th Corps, the corps commander has been switched out, two of the brigade commanders in the 215th Corps have been changed out, as have several members, key members, of the staff,” Shoffner said.

As for the previous leaders of the 215th Corps, Shoffner said “we had some individuals who were corrupt” in how they handled pay for the troops and equipment.

In discussing the 215th Corps, Shoffner ran through a litany of organizational, equipment and leadership problems that U.S. advisers have been attempting to address within the ANA since the U.S. entered Afghanistan in force in late 2001.

In the 215th Corps, “they had problems with equipment maintenance. They had problems with units that had been attrited. They had problems with poor leadership. What we have found when units have an issue with attrition, it typically is traced back to poor leadership,” Shoffner said. Overall, the ANA was short about 25,000 troops because of desertions, he said.

“These are important changes, and those new leaders are still going through the process of establishing themselves,” Shoffner said of the 215th Corps.

Overall in 2015, the first year in which the ANA was on its own in the fight against the Taliban, the ANA had “mixed results” in its operations, Shoffner said.

The ANA did “fairly well” in operations that were planned beforehand, but had difficulty in responding quickly to a crisis, he said.

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http://www.military.com/daily-news/2016/01/20/corrupt-afghan-army-leaders-hinder-fight-in-helmand-province.html

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U.S. Troops Heading For Helmand

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by David Jolly

New York Times

February 9, 2016

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KABUL, Afghanistan — The United States Army will deploy hundreds of soldiers to the southern Afghan province of Helmand, where government forces have been pushed to the brink by Taliban militants, a military spokesman said Tuesday.

It will be the largest deployment of American troops outside major bases in Afghanistan since the end of the NATO combat mission in 2014. Though the military insists that the soldiers will not take active combat roles, American Special Operations forces have increasingly been drawn into the fighting in Helmand as one important district after another has fallen or been threatened by Taliban insurgents.

Col. Michael T. Lawhorn, a spokesman for the United States military in Afghanistan, said in a statement that the new deployment would provide protection for the current Special Operations troops in Helmand and give extra support and training for the 215th Corps of the Afghan National Army. Afghan forces in Helmand have taken heavy casualties in recent months and have been cut off by the Taliban in many places.

“Our mission,” Colonel Lawhorn said, “remains the same: to train, advise, and assist our Afghan counterparts, and not to participate in combat operations.”

He would not detail the number of troops or the unit involved in the deployment, citing Pentagon policy. But a senior American military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational matters, said the unit being sent to Helmand, the Second Battalion, 87th Infantry, was slightly smaller than the usual battalion size of 700 to 800 soldiers. On Monday, The Guardian reported that up to a battalion would be sent to Helmand.

The new troops will replace another unit that was already in Afghanistan, the official said, and will not add to the total number of American troops in the country, which stands at roughly 9,800.

The official could not say where the deployment would be based within Helmand but said that the problems in the province demanded the attention of American and Afghan commanders.

“Certainly Helmand is the diciest place in Afghanistan right now, the place where A.N.S.F. have had the most setbacks from without and within,” the official said, using the abbreviation for the Afghan National Security Forces, meaning the army and the police. “It’s part of what matters most right now for the future of the country.”

The additional American soldiers would be “doing some retraining, re-equipping and advising” for the troubled Afghan 215th Army Corps, the official added.

Alarm has risen in Kabul and Washington as a resurgent Taliban insurgency has pushed government forces to the edge. Faced with the possible collapse of the Afghan Army and police in Helmand, the Pentagon began ratcheting up the role of American Special Operations forces there last autumn, stepping up air attacks and putting more advisers on the ground. One American was killed and two were wounded there in early January as Afghan and American troops sought to break a Taliban encirclement of the Marja district.

Some Afghan officials have advocated a bigger role for American troops for months.

The numbers being discussed “aren’t enough; 700 or so troops cannot solve such a big problem,” as Helmand is a very big province, said Lt. Gen. Rahmatullah Raufi, a former Afghan Army general who now commands the Afghan Border Police.

He nonetheless welcomed the Americans’ decision to support the Afghan Army and police in the south, saying, “They’ll be equipped with advanced weaponry, they’ll have better air support and they can fight well alongside the A.N.S.F. They’ll inflict extensive pressure on the enemy.”

“If similar action were taken in other volatile provinces,” he said, “it would be a blow to the enemy and terrorists.”

Under the current security agreement with Afghanistan, American forces are mostly in the country to provide training and logistical support, and as part of a counterterrorism mission targeting Al Qaeda and a splinter group of Islamic State militants. But the American command has interpreted the rules broadly, joining the fight against Taliban insurgents when Afghan forces have broken down, as when the northern city of Kunduz was taken over by the militants last September.

“American forces in Afghanistan, and in this specific case in Helmand, are in the role of train, advise and assist,” said Sayed Zafar Hashemi, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani. “The Afghan forces are on the lead, carrying out the combat mission.”

Helmand has been besieged by Taliban militants since the NATO and United States combat mission ended in 2014, and it has long been one of the most contested parts of the country. The Helmand opium fields are also among the most productive in the world, making the province an economic prize disputed by the insurgents, criminal gangs and corrupt government officials alike. It shares a porous border with Pakistan, where the Taliban’s leaders are based, adding to its strategic value.

The Helmand police and the 215th Army Corps have been ground down, with morale plummeting and desertions increasing as underfed, undertrained and underequipped units fight on without rest. In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee last week, Gen. John F. Campbell, the outgoing chief of NATO and United States forces in Afghanistan, expressed concern about the Afghan military. “Ultimately,” he said, “Afghanistan has not achieved an enduring level of security and stability that justifies reduction in our support in 2016.”

The number of American troops in Afghanistan was supposed to fall to 5,500 by the end of 2016. That drawdown now appears to be in doubt, as Lt. Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., who will replace General Campbell, told senators in January that he wanted to “re-look” at the military’s needs in the country, considering “what is necessary, what amount of capability is necessary given the current conditions.”

Aimal Faizi, who was a spokesman for former President Hamid Karzai, said that sending more American troops to Helmand again would be a return to an “ill-advised” military strategy that failed to “fight the roots of terrorism.”

Mr. Faizi added: “After 15 years of failed military operations, killings and destruction in Helmand, it is also right to worry that the local people in Helmand will no more see the Americans as a liberating force but an occupying force this time. It is all very unfortunate.”

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Matthew Rosenberg contributed reporting from Washington, and Jawad Sukhanyar from Kabul.

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Afghan Army Raises Recruitment Age

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by Tim Craig

The Washington Post

via Stars & Stripes

February 4, 2016

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KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan army, struggling to defeat a resilient Taliban, has begun enlisting men as old as 40 to replenish a force thinned by casualties, defections and attrition.

The decision to raise the age limit for recruits to 40 from 35 was quietly made last month in response to pressure from the U.S.-led coalition, said Brig. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, chief spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry.

“There was concern among our international friends, and also among Afghans, that we would not be able fulfill recruitment targets that we have for the new year,” Waziri said.

The strength of the Afghan National Army has been a long-standing concern for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, but the force’s shortcomings came into sharper focus last year.

Despite more than $35 billion in U.S. support over the past 15 years, the Afghan army struggled to repel a major Taliban offensive this past fall into Kunduz, a commercial hub in northern Afghanistan, taking days to regain control.

The Taliban also made gains in several northern and eastern provinces last year, heightening concerns that the Afghan army is stretched too thin to defend the country against the radical Islamist group’s persistent insurgency, as well as efforts by the Islamic State to gain a foothold.

In a report to Congress last week, John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said Afghan forces control only 70 percent of the country and that the Taliban now controls more territory than at any point since 2001, when it was ousted from power in Kabul after five years of brutal rule.

Many analysts believe the Afghan army suffered a record number of casualties last year, although it has not released specific figures. Col. Michael T. Lawhorn, director of public affairs for the U.S.-led coalition, said Afghan forces suffered a 28 percent increase in casualties in 2015.

Lawhorn said Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, has been urging the Afghan army change how it recruits and deploys its soldiers.

Besides simplifying the recruitment process, Campbell has advised army commanders to shift soldiers from checkpoints into more mobile infantry units. The army also has to be large enough that it can more easily cycle soldiers between combat and leave time, Lawhorn said.

“What has happened the last couple years is some of these units have been in battle the entire time,” Lawhorn said. “So this winter, what we are trying to do is rebuild, reequip and re-man.”  Waziri said Afghan military commanders hope about 5 to 10 percent of recruits will come from the 35-to-40 age bracket.
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The Afghan army has a targeted strength of 195,000 soldiers, but it has consistently failed to meet its recruitment goals. In his report to Congress, Sopko said the force currently claims about 170,000 soldiers. But that figure may be inflated, he cautioned.
.

Last month, an Associated Press investigation found that official Afghan army enlistment numbers probably include thousands of “ghost soldiers” who do not regularly report for duty or who have retired, defected to the Taliban or been killed.

With the move to accept recruits up to age 40, it appears as if the Afghan military will have one of the world’s least restrictive age requirements for military service.

Neighboring Pakistan, for example, generally does not accept infantry recruits older than 23, according to military officials in that country. India generally does not accept infantry recruits older than 24.

But in recent years, the U.S. military has also loosened some of its own age requirements for enlistment.

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http://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/stretched-by-fight-against-taliban-afghan-army-raises-recruitment-age-1.392246

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Pvt. Ghani Gandhara’s Hymn Hope

by Rawclyde!

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Haji Mujadooti an elder of Pluckame

Sits in a circle of cross-legged old ones on the floor of

Pluckame’s recently restored domed mosque

He wonders, “What now?”

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The elders lackadaisically discuss

The presence of foreigners in their village

Fatalistically & realistically decide nothing

‘Cause nothing is up to them anymore

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 That is, nothing is up to them except

The fate of the entire nation of Afghanistan applauding below

So impressed with this bubble hovering above their heads

Afghans near & far can’t stop clapping & hooting at it

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Haji Mujadooti excuses himself, totters to his feet

Escapes up a zig-zag mountain-ridge trail, rests momentarily

Peers outside the bubble inside which his village consistently triumphs

He peers down thru the bubble at a real borderlands fight

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Bullets pummel & dent the helmets of ducking ANA soldiers

40 Afghans hold their own against 1,000 Taliban wanna-be’s

Wanna-be men, wanna-be angels, wanna-be dead

The soldiers matter-of-factly load, aim, fire!

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But Pvt. Ghani Gandhara has gotten shot in the gut

Blood is the river of no return

The ANA private rapidly loses corpuscles, strength, faith

Old Haji above beams him some hymn hope…

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Afghaneeland Adventure Series | Old Timer Chronicle II

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