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    U.S. Army soldiers from the 1-320th Alpha Battery, 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, walk among grape orchards during a patrol towards COP Nolen, in the volatile Arghandab Valley, Kandahar, Afghanistan, Tuesday, July 20, 2010

    Afghanistan's Endless War: How One Man's Vineyard Became a Firing Range

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    Over the weekend, Afghanis marked a somber anniversary – fifteen years to the day since the start of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. Initially, much of the population supported the intervention, hoping it would help end the country's seemingly endless war. However, as Sputnik Dari found out, fifteen years on, many Afghanis have lost all hope.

    Six years ago, 27-year-old Mahommad, a resident of the village of Nagahan in the lush Arghandab Valley, southern Afghanistan, was working in a vineyard near his home, surrounded by family and friends. Suddenly, he heard the roar of bombers and the whistle of shells exploding nearby. 

    Three hours later, he and his bloodstained friends and family members were being carried away from his home and vineyard, which had been instantly turned into a firing range.

    Speaking to Sputnik Dari on the fifteenth anniversary of the US intervention, Mahommad confessed that not even in his worst nightmare could he imagine that his beloved vineyard would be turned into a fiery hellscape. But as it turned out, this place, where he earned a living to feed his large family, the man ended up losing both his legs.

    Mahommad.
    Sputnik Dari
    Mahommad.

    "I got off easier than some," the winemaker admitted. And he wasn't joking. As a result of the airstrike, thirteen of his fellow villagers were killed, and another 16 were seriously injured. "Most of the victims were my cousins and brothers – my friends. For about three hours the living and the dead lay mixed together. Then soldiers came and took the bodies and wounded to a hospital in Kandahar."

    Six years have gone by since the attack. Mahommad says that his heart is still heavy with sadness – the pain hasn't gone away. "Let's focus on my injuries instead," he remarked. "I stayed in a hospital for about a year, and lost a lot of blood. My family weren't able to take me to a better hospital to get the  urgent surgery I needed. We didn't have the money."

    "After that, I visited a doctor regularly for another six months. Doctors provided me with moral support, saying that I would get better. Did I? Well, what can I tell you? I continue to take painkillers. My injuries make themselves felt. Whenever the pain strikes me, I make an injection. It's difficult to say that my health is satisfactory."

    The memories of that fateful morning remain in Mahommad's memory, he said. "From the start of the attack to my hospitalization I remained conscious; I remember every detail of what happened." Pausing for a moment, the man continued. "I remember how loudly the dead seem to fall to the ground, how people received terrible wounds on their bodies before my eyes."

    Subsequently, the winemaker recalled, the US Air Force admitted that it had struck Nagahan by mistake, and apologized to the victims and their families. "Representatives of the US Air Force met with the families of the victims of this tragedy. The Americans promised to compensate the spending of at least three months of treatment for the injured. This was immediately after the attacks."

    "But six years have passed," Mahommad added, "and no one in Nagahan ever saw this compensation. I know that they haven't fulfilled any of the obligations they made to us. They played with us and left us to fend for ourselves. After all, the air attack destroyed all our property –our garden, our home, our tools…Unfortunately, I am not physically able to restore our household. Before I was a good worker; now I'm not."

    Mahommad was forced to leave his home, or what was left of it, and to move to Kandahar. For a while, he worked as a tailor, and then became a baker. He bakes to sustain himself, his elderly father and his younger brother. But he can only do so at half his former strength, he said, since he is now "only half a man."

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    collateral damage, mistake, interview, airstrike, US Air Force, Afghanistan, United States
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