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  • I spent the Persian New Year "Nowruz" in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif. At one point, we spent a couple hours wait­ing for my translator Najib’s friend in the company of the Afghan National Army's most heavily armed man. He had a quiver with four RPGs and car­ried another loaded one in his hand.

    Najib guided us next to him and remarked that we were in the safest place in town, but I did not agree with his assess­ment. There wasn’t a place for miles in over­crowded Mazar where such a weapon could be used effectively with­out sub­stan­tial col­lat­eral dam­age. In fact, being next to such a war machine made me feel like more of a target.

    Besides, the RPG slinger said he had only ever fired four rounds, all for practice. It’s an expensive plea­sure. He claimed each round cost $10,000 but I doubt he knew what he was talk­ing about.

    There were a few kids hang­ing out with the sol­diers. Frequently, they’d ask to play with the guns or just tugged at the barrels with­out ask­ing. The sol­diers, who were Afghan kids them­selves and could relate, obliged, non­cha­lantly pass­ed the guns around with­out so much as a word of caution to not point them at people.
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