Afghanistan Dispatch

Embedded And On Patrol In Afghanistan

Map of Afghanistan

The main effort now for American forces in Afghanistan is in and around Kandahar, the southern city where the Taliban movement began. It is the place where Taliban fighters now hide, plan their attacks and store their weapons. It’s called Zhari, a wide patch of orchards, fields and villages north of the city. Some troops call it “The Heart of Darkness.”

NPR reporter Tom Bowman and photographer David Gilkey went on patrol with soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division as they approached one of those villages, searching for enemies who have been throwing grenades; listen to the full story. Gilkey is now embedded with the 101st, so follow us for updates.

  • Army Lt. Col. Johnny Davis of the 101st Airborne Division puts on his boonie hat while talking to his men at a combat outpost in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, a Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan. Davis commands the division's 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, which is situated near Sangeray, capital of Zhari district.
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    Army Lt. Col. Johnny Davis of the 101st Airborne Division puts on his boonie hat while talking to his men at a combat outpost in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, a Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan. Davis commands the division's 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, which is situated near Sangeray, capital of Zhari district.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Pvt. Dan Oswald with Alpha Company is cared for by medics in an aid station after being hit by shrapnel from a hand grenade thrown over a wall at his patrol. Oswald suffered only minor wounds to his leg and face and was expected to return to his unit right away.
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    Pvt. Dan Oswald with Alpha Company is cared for by medics in an aid station after being hit by shrapnel from a hand grenade thrown over a wall at his patrol. Oswald suffered only minor wounds to his leg and face and was expected to return to his unit right away.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Capt. Nick Stout, commander of Alpha Company, readies his men and Afghan soldiers and police for a joint patrol to pursue the people responsible for throwing hand grenades at his patrols.
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    Capt. Nick Stout, commander of Alpha Company, readies his men and Afghan soldiers and police for a joint patrol to pursue the people responsible for throwing hand grenades at his patrols.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Villagers in Sangeray watch soldiers from Alpha Company during the patrol. The dense urban environment makes it easy for Taliban insurgents to throw grenades at the soldiers and disappear into the surroundings.
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    Villagers in Sangeray watch soldiers from Alpha Company during the patrol. The dense urban environment makes it easy for Taliban insurgents to throw grenades at the soldiers and disappear into the surroundings.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Karim Jan, the district governor of Zhari, peeks through a hole in a steel gate. Just hours earlier at this spot, a hand grenade was tossed over the gate at an earlier patrol.
    Hide caption
    Karim Jan, the district governor of Zhari, peeks through a hole in a steel gate. Just hours earlier at this spot, a hand grenade was tossed over the gate at an earlier patrol.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • An Afghan national police officer searches a man in Sangeray. The top Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, was born in the Zhari district and many of his first recruits came from here.
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    An Afghan national police officer searches a man in Sangeray. The top Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, was born in the Zhari district and many of his first recruits came from here.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Karim Jan, the governor, points his finger in shame at a local shop owner he suspects of aiding the Taliban. The 101st Airborne Division's task is to bring security to a 16-mile long swath of lush orchards and fields north and west of the city of Kandahar. The Taliban live in the area, plan their operations and hide weapons here.
    Hide caption
    Karim Jan, the governor, points his finger in shame at a local shop owner he suspects of aiding the Taliban. The 101st Airborne Division's task is to bring security to a 16-mile long swath of lush orchards and fields north and west of the city of Kandahar. The Taliban live in the area, plan their operations and hide weapons here.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • An Afghan national police officer (left) searches a man while Karim Jan (right) holds his arms. The counterinsurgency strategy relies heavily on the police, who live in the community, are closest to the people and should be able to spot insurgents.
    Hide caption
    An Afghan national police officer (left) searches a man while Karim Jan (right) holds his arms. The counterinsurgency strategy relies heavily on the police, who live in the community, are closest to the people and should be able to spot insurgents.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Karim Jan (left) touches the beard of a man he suspects in grenade attacks in the village of Sangeray. The man was arrested after he was questioned. He could not produce a local identity card and was speaking with a foreign accent.
    Hide caption
    Karim Jan (left) touches the beard of a man he suspects in grenade attacks in the village of Sangeray. The man was arrested after he was questioned. He could not produce a local identity card and was speaking with a foreign accent.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • A man suspected of helping the Taliban in grenade attacks is cuffed and detained for further questioning by coalition forces.
    Hide caption
    A man suspected of helping the Taliban in grenade attacks is cuffed and detained for further questioning by coalition forces.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Soldiers from Alpha Company walk beneath the high mud walls that make up the labyrinth of alleyways and corridors of the village of Sangeray. In less than a week, five grenade attacks injured more than a half dozen U.S. and Afghan troops.
    Hide caption
    Soldiers from Alpha Company walk beneath the high mud walls that make up the labyrinth of alleyways and corridors of the village of Sangeray. In less than a week, five grenade attacks injured more than a half dozen U.S. and Afghan troops.
    David Gilkey/NPR

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