KABUL, Afghanistan – If all the winter woes of Afghanistan could be said to concentrate in one spot, it might be the wind-swept, frozen field on the outskirts of Kabul known as Charai Qamber.

Plastic and burlap tents are clustered on the icy terrain, each colony housing dozens of families who have fled crises: laborers deported from Iran, longtime refugees forced out of Pakistan by camp closings, farmers from southern Helmand province whose villages were caught in fighting between Taliban insurgents and international soldiers.

Some families have dug trenches beneath their tents, lined with scraps of carpet, where they can keep a little warmer by sleeping around charcoal braziers. But with temperatures falling to 25 degrees below zero on some recent nights – exceptionally cold even by Afghan standards – every night is another ordeal, filled with the sounds of rattling wind and coughing children.

“This place is not fit for human beings. If not for the fighting, we never would have come here,” said Ismael Jan, 25, a villager from Helmand. He said his wife and brother were killed last month when Taliban forces attacked and foreign soldiers retaliated. Jan and his neighbors piled into a truck and drove 300 miles, hoping to find help in the capital. “Now, here I am with six children, nothing to eat, and no one to defend us from thieves,” he said.

Afghans are tough, resilient survivors, accustomed to harsh conditions and recurrent conflict.

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