ZHARI DISTRICT, Afghanistan — Almost every summer for the past decade, Zhari's thick-walled earth huts, used to dry the famous local sweet grapes into raisins, have become fortresses for Taliban fighters.
From April to November each year, insurgents would fire machine guns at American patrols from the structures’ ventilation slits, aiming to at least to push US soldiers back onto paths laden with homemade bombs.
But for the past six months, Zhari’s grape huts have been clear of fighters. And this small but strategic farming district in Kandahar province has seen a dramatic drop in violence, even as fighting picks up in neighboring districts.
An influx of US and Afghan troops has, for now, weakened the Taliban who once took amid the grape vines. The insurgent-planted mines that kept farmers from reaching their fields are largely gone.
“The Taliban, they still scare the villagers and cause problems, but it is nothing like it was,” said Afghan army 1st Lt. Ashabudden Mokhles, a platoon leader at Ghundy Ghar, a lonely brown hill that now serves as an Afghan army outpost. “Last year at this time, there was a lot of fighting. Now, it is quiet.”
But with US troops packing up and moving out, how long this tranquil farming community can keep the peace remains to be seen.
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